To be honest, when I first took on the Eat Local Challenge, it wasn’t so much the green/sustainability/food security issues that drew me in. It was the adventure and challenge of it all that appealed to me, and through the experience, I’ve come up with my own personal motivations for eating local. One of them is still the adventure. Grocery stores, farmers’ markets and all the little markets around town become foraging grounds, and once you start looking, the more you find.
Here’s the Weekly’s grocery guide (part 2) for the Eat Local Challenge; use it as a launching point to find your own gems.
Of course, farmers’ markets are the best ways to shop for eating local. But not all are created equal. There are now a bewildering number of markets, some of them filled with repackaged Costco produce from the mainland. Your best bets are Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation (HFBF) markets, the most famous (and crowded) of them being the one at Kapiolani Community College. It’s still worth fighting through the Japanese tourists to come, though; there are some vendors here that don’t sell anywhere else, like Blue Lotus Farm, which sells free-range chicken and duck eggs, and Kuahiwi Ranch, which comes monthly with Kau-raised beef. The HFBF Honolulu Farmers’ Market at Blaisdell is another great option for those who refuse to wake up early on a Saturday morning. Khamphout Farm brings a wide variety of greens and specialty items like fresh bamboo shoots and fern shoots; WOW Farms from Waimea on the Big Island sells luscious ripe tomatoes; and Daizu Tei offers locally-made tofu and soy milk. Kailua and Mililani also host HFBF markets.
Pamela Boyar and Annie Suite actively screen vendors to make sure all produce is local at their three markets: Haleiwa, Hawaii Kai and Ala Moana. In Haleiwa, find Tin Roof Ranch with chickens and eggs for sale, Mohala Farms with vibrant organic produce and Twin Bridge Farms with fresh asparagus. In Hawaii Kai, you’ll find Otsuji Farms with Asian vegetables. At Ala Moana, there’s North Shore Farms with heirloom tomatoes, carrots and beans; Small Kine Farm with mushrooms; and Madre Chocolate with bean-to-bar chocolates.
Supermarkets and Markets
Shopping local doesn’t mean forgoing supermarkets, especially since they’re still the most convenient place to shop. The best markets for local ingredients are Whole Foods, Foodland (especially Foodland Farms and the Foodlands with an attached R. Fields) and Kokua Market. At Whole Foods, you can get almost all your locally-grown staples: fruits and vegetables from various farmers in the Islands; Island Dairy milk from the Big Island; Maui Cattle Co. beef. What you can’t get is local eggs; none of the larger-scale egg producers here currently meet Whole Foods guidelines. For local eggs, try Kokua Market, which also sources at least a third of their produce locally from growers like MAO Farms and WOW Farms. Frozen, grass-fed beef from Kulana is also available. Foodland Farms offers almost as much local as Whole Foods, with more Asian vegetables and in some locations, a wider variety of local fish, but you have to hunt for some of the items like Naked Cow Dairy butter and Surfing Goat chèvre which are tucked away in specialty aisles.
More fish market than supermarket, Tamashiro Market offers the best selection of island fish, from reef fish to pelagic, as well as various limu and starchy staples like kabocha, sweet potatoes and breadfruit (when in season).
Want a wider range of cuts than the supermarkets offer? Try Aala Meat Market, which offers Island-raised, free-range beef. If you’re looking for a specific cut, you may need to call or walk-in to place a special order. If it’s island pork you’re craving, call Higa Food Service, which offers Shinsato pigs as well as Big Island wild boar. Be aware, though, that you may need to purchase the whole hog. Higa also offers beef from Kuahiwi Ranch and Kulana.
Since we don’t grow wheat or rice, finding starches sometimes becomes a search of desperation for the carb-lover. Taking cues from the Hawaiian diet, breadfruit and poi are the staples of a truly local diet. There is, of course, bagged poi in most supermarkets as well as Hanalei Poi, sweet and thick. Super-fresh poi is available through Kakoo ‘Oiwi, a non-profit dedicated to recreating a food-producing landscape in Heeia. Kakoo produces poi weekly, at times from non-mainstream kalo cultivars, varieties based on flavor versus production efficiency. And we couldn’t forget Mana ‘Ai, offering hand-pounded pai‘ai, for a consistency that’s more akin to mochi than poi.