posted by Lisa

The Sunshine Market in Koloa Town is not your average farmer’s market. For one thing, wild banana trees:

and Jackfruit trees:

line the parking lot, which is along a large playing field.

For another, it begins at 12 noon, sharp. One of the farmers greets the customers, who wait at the end of a long driveway at the entrance to the market. You must, absolutely be there early and be at the front of the small crowd of locals and tourists. The host allows those who need extra time to walk, those with disabilities, the older customers, those with small children, to walk into the market first. Then, he leads the rest of the group into the market, and when everyone is there together, he blows a conch shell, and the buying begins. Sometimes, there are only a few bags of greens in the whole market, which is the reason for arriving promptly and getting to the farmers who may or may not have that lettuce or spinach.

The market is a great place, with an abundance of fruit familiar and exotic. It makes it very easy for us to eat in the same sort of way we do at home, but with very different ingredients, and some of the same ingredients that just taste different because they’re grown here. Ella and Finn both know how a market works and why we go, and that most things there are good, so it’s sort of an adventure.

The Koloa market is not fancy. They’re aren’t any crafts, or touristy things, just local farmers selling out of their trucks and off a few folding tables. Everything is bagged and/or marked in masking tape. Lots of Hawaiian farmers, a few white locals, many elderly, some middle-aged. Some will tell you their things are pesticide free, or organic. Mostly I don’t ask. I’ve been to other markets where you can see the stickers still on the fruit, or the commercial packing boxes in the back of the van, but this one seems to be mostly local people selling things that they grow. Sometimes, they seem to be selling things that just happen to grow abundantly in their back yard.

Finn got a couple of free bananas.

Ella got a beautiful $5 lei, an ice cold coconut, and a free gardenia for her hair.

We got a couple of not-very-nice-looking but incredibly sweet and mild, low-acid pineapples:

My beloved, fiddlehead ferns, which I look forward to every year, and which are a little like an island version of asparagus. I know they can be gotten elsewhere, but elsewhere, they woudn’t taste like they had just been hauled out of rich red dirt.

I got a bag of mountain apples, which are mild and sweet, and sort of suprising. Ella and I have come to like them. Kory thinks they’d be really good if you were in the mountains. And had nothing else to eat.

Flowers, for a third of what I’d pay for them in California:

I grabbed some great greens, but passed on an amazing squash, curled on the asphalt underneath a table, looking nearly alive.

The radishes really are as big as they look, and the tomatoes, cucumbers, mangos–all the familiar things taste like slightly askew versions of themselves. But of course, askew is the wrong word, because they taste exactly like they were grown here. Themselves, but different.

Next week, I am going to try a banana bloom, which is as large as my son’s head, and which, apparently, you can stir-fry. I knew bananas grew on trees, I suppose, but I didn’t know how and I certainly didn’t know about the blooms, which are simply gorgeous.