Food Box

Processing the pits

Hawaii boasts 11 of the 13 climatic zones (as defined in Ag circles by the USDA), and each offers opportunities to grow almost every imaginable fruit, spice and vegetable variety. All over the Islands one can see vestiges of farming experiments over the decades–Russian-planted olive trees in Waikii, apple orchards in Volcano, cashew groves in Maunawili and, of course, Vineyard Boulevard, home to our first grape vines back in the 1800s.

What’s up next? Why olives, of course–the ancient Mediterranean tree that yields oil and fruit. Hawaii now joins California, Texas and Arizona among growing states.

The Maui Olive Company is consulting locally, providing expertise on cultivation, the correct varieties to grow and where to plant them. They are thinking ahead about a press for oil processing, when these new orchards mature. In the past few years, more than 20 acres of trees have been planted, primarily in upcountry Maui since olives require hot days and cool nights–places like Kula, Olinda, ‘Ulupalakua.

At Oahu’s very center, Helemano Plantations took the bold step of planting 2,000 trees in 2010. Suzanna Cheung, founder of Helemano, heard about efforts on Maui and decided to use some of the Plantation’s land for olive cultivation. Give the trees a few more years to mature, and we should be enjoying the fruit of these labors–local olive oils and fruit. —