If you love tropical fruits and veggies, it’s so easy to plant a garden in Hawaii, get back to the earth and reap the benefits of growing a garden here. There’s so much joy in reconnecting with the land, no matter how small – it can even be a group of small pots with fresh herbs, tomatoes and easy to grow vegetables. Learning how to plant a garden in Hawaii is fun outdoors, getting your hands into the soil and so good for your mind, body and soul.
It’s surprising how fast it is to start a kitchen garden and learning to growing your own fruits and vegetables here in Hawaii. A good part of the process is inspiration, knowing what you want to grow and the learning process. Now is a great time to start and here are some of the tools you need below to get going quickly in growing your own fruits and veggies.
Plant a kitchen garden in Hawaii
If the thought of being able to start growing your own garden sounds too intimidating, it really isn’t and you can always start small at first and control the entire process on your own time. You’ll definitely love the sense of accomplishment and seeing something growing from your efforts and yes love. Amazing to think that you can actually grow your own and have food ingredients fresh from your own yard to make some delicious and local.
There’s a lot of work in prepping an area and making the soil workable and rich along with doing daily maintenance of a garden. Decide how much area you can really dedicate to take care of including weeding, fertilizing, watering, pest control on a regular basis.
Growing with limited space
Check out what you can grow well in pots or a small space that doesn’t take too much space and effort for you to manage. These include herbs, garlic or onions, bak choy, lettuce and radishes that can do well in smaller spaces. If you grow vertically, you can also grow tomatoes, beans, cucumbers or pumpkins if you create trellised support for them to grow tall.
Tips to starting a garden in Hawaii
Pick the right plants that will work for your location
Even though Hawaii is perfect for growing a kitchen garden doesn’t mean all veggies or fruits will grow here. Depending on elevation, soil condition and tropical climates, you need plants that will grow well in these outside tropical environments. Learning to plant a garden in Hawaii starts with vegetable plants that does well including taro, eggplants, okra, beans, tropical peppers and herbs will do well – check out these hardy and successful plants from UH Hawaii’s best growing plants for a kitchen garden. For fruit trees or plants, check out these wonderful fruit trees like bananas, citrus, pineapples, papaya and this list here for more inspiration.
It takes a good base in prepping up your soil, adding good amendments, mulch and drainage for plants to grow well and fast in our sunny tropical environments. In Hawaii we have lava, sand, clay and very poor soils, so you need to learn what type of soil you have and want you can do to add more nutrients and even more soil to build up your beds. Depending on the size of garden you want to build, you can buy bags of good soil and mulch or have delivery service done to help you in building healthy soil and beds for planting.
Make your growing area accessible
Find a spot that is easy to move soil, nutrients your tools and even water that you can do daily in maintaining your garden and finding an easy spot to get to everyday from your home is essential.
Tending your garden
We have so many other conditions to consider here in Hawaii from heat and humidity, wildlife and ongoing pest control to consider in protecting growing starts in the growing process. A diligent process of checking daily on plant health, fertilizing and pest control is important to checking growth patterns and health during this crucial time frame. Plants crave good nutrients from the soil to develop good structure and food for consumption.
Plants need 8 hours of sun to be healthy and productive
You need a place that actually gets sun to be able to not have shade, competing plants that take nutrients and other impediments to growing and producing the best produce for you. Make sure you site containers, planting beds in areas that allow for enough sun to grow viable and healthy plants to produce well.
Consider succession gardening
For plants that can last longer seasons or can have seasonal crops that can be prepared in different beds for transition. Longer surviving plants like tomatoes, herbs and eggplant can be grown in one area while other plants staggered that produce at a certain time frame like corn, lettuce, beets, turnips and other seasonal crops.
Pest control in Hawaii
There’s a lot of pests that love to devour plants and fruit so being diligent in your daily inspections is necessary to plant health and creating produce for consumption. Things you can typically use including insecticidal soaps, traps or sprays are needed or organic treatments or even water spraying is what you may consider for producing healthy plants and produce. Check out these typical pests in the Hawaiian garden and effective treatments to maintaining plant growth.
Gardening in Hawaii is a matter of learning what grows best
in Hawaii, education, daily chores and inspection and just getting your hands
dirty. Hopefully with all this care and fun in the process, you’ll also end up
with some wonderful fruit and vegetables to enjoy from your own gardening pursuits
when you plant a garden in Hawaii.
This Hawaii Chocolate making and tour was a fun experience offered by a local grower in the Big Island of Hawaii. There are several farmers on Hawai’i Island planting varieties of Theobroma cacao trees that produce cacao seeds or pods from which cocoa and chocolate is made. The best known varieties are Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario which is a hybrid mix of both Criollo and Forastero.
The quality of the chocolate depends on the variety of the tree, and Criollo is considered the best chocolate producing trees.
Cacao – From Tree to Chocolate
Sometime ago, I participated in a fun one-day chocolate making workshop at local grower, Sharks Coffee in the Hamakua district that took us from harvesting the cacao pods to making the chocolate and all the steps in between.
We arrived at the site early on a beautiful,
sunny but breezy morning and were given a short orientation talk by the owner
of the little farmstead who is a coffee and cacao grower.
Our group got paired up in teams of twos, one
picking the pods and the other carrying a burlap sack to put them in. As we walked through the cacao grove, he
explained and demonstrated what to look for and how to pick. He also explained how the trees need to be
trimmed by cutting all but the main trunk as the little trees grew to make it
easier to harvest.
The pods are harvested approximately every two
weeks and the ‘ripe’ stage can be red, yellow, orange or mixed, depending on
the variety of cacao tree. We harvested
approximately 300 pods that morning.
As sacks were filled and dumped into a wheelbarrow they were taken to the shed where the processing started.
We were taught how to open the pods by giving
them one or two sharp blows with a mallet and how to shuck the pods by removing
the placentas with the seeds. Each pod
can contain anywhere from 30 to 40 seeds.
After all the pods were opened and shucked, the
seeds were placed in a large plastic container with drainage in the bottom to
collect the juices. We were given
ice-cold juice from a previous harvest to taste and found it delicious. The empty pods are recycled as composting
material and nothing is wasted.
After the juices are drained, the beans are
placed in a different container to ferment for 5 to 7 days, turning them each
day, making sure that the beans are heating up.
After fermenting comes the drying stage; the
beans are turned onto a mesh bottom drying rack in a single layer, in a well
ventilated area and stirred daily. This
process can take up to 6 days, depending on heat and air circulation, but
dryness can be tested by opening a bean.
The dried beans need to be ground or cracked using a machine called Crackenstein or for small batches just simply a rolling pin. The farmer has a machine he rigged up to separate the dried husks from the nibs, but a regular hand-held hair dryer can be used when processing small batches.
When roasting small batches of nibs, set a
toaster oven at 425oF and roast for 9 minutes, then down to 325oF for another 9
minutes and finally bring the temperature down to 259oF for 10 minutes.
To grind the nibs a large Champion juicer can be used or a peanut butter machine to turn the nibs into paste. The paste is then placed in a Santha wet grinding-mixing machine for conching, for 2 to 4 days, adding sugar and vanilla slowly after paste is liquefied (about 12 hours). At this point you may also add cocoa butter and lecithin (emulsifier), but we didn’t add anything but sugar and vanilla to our batch.
Sugar can be adjusted according to your
taste. Our dark chocolate was made using
75% cacao to 25% sugar.
To temper, the chocolate should be brought up to 115 to 120 degrees, then removed from heat and cooled to approximately 82 F. Bring the temperature back to 88-90 degrees and maintain while pouring into molds by working quickly.
Squirt bottles work well for pouring the liquid chocolate into the molds. To minimize air bubbles, first tap the squirt bottle and after pouring, tap the molds to remove as many bubbles as possible. Chill for about 15 to 20 minutes to set and pop loose from mold.
Each participant left on a chocolate high with a few packages of the chocolate and a potted one foot Criollo variety of cacao tree. My tree is now about 20 feet tall and we’ve been harvesting pods, which we use for making small batches, or trade to a chocolatier friend for chocolate bars!
Cacao: the name of the tree and the pod, not to be
confused with cocoa a product derived from processing the cacao beans
Nibs: the clean, roasted and slightly crushed cacao
bean. The taste is slightly bittersweet
and richer than the chocolate made from them.
Conching: the process by which the chocolate is processed
to avoid grittiness by keeping the chocolate in a hot liquid state until
Tempering: the final process which gives the chocolate a
satiny and glossy finish by removing all crystallization from the liquid.
The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of
Chocolate with Recipes by Maricel Presilla
Naked Chocolate: The Astonishing Truth about the World’s Greatest Food by David Wolfe
The True History of Chocolate by Sophie and
Bio of Sonia Martinez
Sonia was born in Cuba and ended up living in Hawai‘i—from one beautiful island in the Atlantic to another beautiful island in the Pacific with several years in between living in the American South. She lives in a beautiful rural rainforest area on Hawai’i Island where she enjoys growing herbs, collecting cookbooks, developing recipes, visiting farms and farmers markets, writing about food and cooking, reading voraciously, and working on crossword puzzles. Keep up with her adventures and ongoing love affair with Hawai’i by visiting her food and garden blog called Sonia Tastes Hawaii
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