Big Island Farmers Markets on the Hawaiian islands are more than places to buy your produce, local treats and flowers to decorate your home or yourself. They are centers of social life, where you never know who you will run into to talk story and share the latest news with. It can be your local councilwoman, the friend you have not seen in a while or someone who speaks in the same accent as you and, as you find out, went to your old school thousands of miles away. The world can be that small on a farmers’ market, even on the Big Island. If you want to get to know the island inside and out, start with buying some papayas and apple bananas at the farmers market and talk to the people you meet there. Here are my two favorites:
Find some Hilo Magic
It all began with only 4 vendors in 1988, who set up their wares across the street of the big banyan tree in Mo’oheau Park by Hilo Bay. Today there are more than 200 fruit, vegetable, flower, art, crafts and clothing sellers together with food booths, homemade soaps and even Hawaiian Lomilomi Massage at the Hilo Farmers Market that starts at the picturesque Hilo Bayfront on Kamehameha Avenue and expands up Mamo Street. The two big days are Wednesday and Saturday. Then both sides of Mamo Street are filled with booths and all of the action. On the other days only the side with the vegetable and flower vendors is open, which are often joined by some jewelry, tropical clothing and honey stands. Make sure to stop here next time you are in town and find your favorite tropical delight. How about a bag full with sweet papaya for just one dollar? The market is open from 7 am to 4 pm.
Puna’s Cornucopia at Maku’u Market
The freshest green papaya salad, a juicy huli huli chicken, French crepes or a local laulau plate are just some of the items you can find at the Maku’u Market to make your palate very happy. This Sunday sensation is the place to be on Sunday mornings. Have a bite and shop around for your fresh produce, perhaps some new plants for the garden, jewelry, clothes, art or anything else you can imagine. Maku’u Market it a colorful and vibrant combination of a farmers’ market, an art market and a flea market at the same time. A feast for the senses and also a chance to catch up with friends and neighbors or to make new ones. It is as much a social event as it is a chance for small businesses from the Puna region to generate an income. Let the music, the scent of flowers and fruits and every now and then a refreshing rain shower take you to a slower pace of life and recharge your inner batteries for a new week. This gem is about 25 minutes south of Hilo between Keaau and Pahoa. Plenty of parking gives easy access. 8 am to 2 pm, every Sunday.The Big Island now has about 28 farmers’ markets and they are sprouting up all over the other islands as well. There you can always be sure to find the freshestproduce and the best prices, together with great food, live music and a fascinating mix of local and visiting people.
Bea’s Banana Bread
It does not matter where your bananas come from, these were from the Hilo Farmers market, but any ripe banana will do and within a short time your kitchen will be filled with the scent of tropical pleasures. Better even when it comes out of the oven! Try this easy recipe and don’t forget to share the Aloha with others too…
- 1 cup butter at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 3 cups mashed bananas
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
Beat butter at high speed, add sugar and eggs until all is thick and creamy. Add the previously mixed dry ingredients and beat at medium speed until all is well mixed. Add bananas and vanilla. Finally fold in the walnuts.
Bake about 55 to 60 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Fits perfectly in a 9 x 13 baking dish or make it fun and fill a few small loaf pans. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.