My community, Kailua, is located on the island of O'ahu in Hawai'i. We have a great farmers' open market in Kailua every Thursday morning between 9 and 10 a.m. next to Kailua Intermediate School. It's sponsored by the C and C of Honolulu and has about 20 vendors on average. There is another farmers' market sponsored by the Hawai'i Farm Bureau Federation held on Thursday nights in Kailua. The evening market has produce, like the morning market, but also takeout food, preserves, baked goods and even entertainment. Enough with the preliminaries, let me take you to the morning market.
At 9 a.m. sharp, a horn sounds and suddenly there is a spurt of activity at all the vendors' tables. Early buyers have been checking out the produce since 8:30 but nothing can be actually purchased until 9. You will be gently notified if you have accidentally touched someone else's stash. You can tell if someone has gathered a stash because he or she will have created a little mound of fruit or vegetables and will have subtly shifted their weight so as to be protectively touching the mound.
The smells of pungent basil and im sai, Chinese parsley, waft towards you as buyers sift through the bundles. The activity at this open market has become much more enjoyable, less crowded and far less frenetic since the evening farmer's market was started in Kailua. Now, on Thursdays, Kailua residents have two cracks at fresh produce.
This may be the one opportunity weekly for you to talk story with your own neighbor or just as likely, chat with a Southern transplant about how to cook fresh Lima beans (boiled, with fatback). "Ayy, how's your mango tree doing?" "Where you last week? No see you." I always buy something from Linda, a vendor, simply because she is always so friendly and sweet-"Mama, I save for you 'til you all pau shop."
Much of what you see may have been picked before sunup. The eggs may have been laid hours ago. Don't forget, all money from the purchases stays in Hawai'i.
You can find everything here that would be available in a regular supermarket but there's always so much more: gai lan, chayote, Meyer lemons, guavas, liliko'i, mountain apples, gobo, fresh red ginger, herbs... A lively discussion will instantly start up if you ask out loud how something is cooked or how to choose the best.
I came home with bags of green tomatoes, round onions, sweet potatoes, 2 bunches of half-ripe apple bananas and 2 Japanese cucumbers. Have you ever had green tomato preserves? As you know, tomatoes are fruit and their preserves are sweet-sour with a pleasant crunch. One caution, the tomatoes have to be green and hard without a trace of red or pink. Following is a recipe from the book, "The Gift of Southern Cooking" (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003) by two of my culinary heroes, Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis. I've halved the original recipe. Other heroes include Julia Child, Mama Dip and the wonderful kupuna (elders) of Hawai'i.
Green Tomato Preserves
2 pounds green tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 4 cups)
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Put the tomatoes and lemon into a nonreactive Dutch oven or heavy pot. Pour the sugar and salt over, and let sit for 2 hours or overnight, until the sugar has begun to dissolve in the bottom of the pot and the tomatoes begin to give off their liquid.
Stir the ingredients well, and heat slowly until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer, uncovered stirring often, until the tomatoes are soft and yielding and the mixture is somewhat thickened- about 20 minutes. Put the preserves into sterilized canning jars. Refrigerate, or process, following the manufacturer's instructions.
Makes about 5 cups (2 and 1/2 pints)
This is 'ono with biscuits or a shrimp coconut curry entree.
Farmers have a weekly venue to sell their produce without a middleman. Buyers have access to fresh and varied produce up to 35% less than a supermarket. Schedules, dates and locations for People's Open Markets sponsored by the City and County of Honolulu can be found at http://www.honolulu.gov/parks/programs/pom
The Hawaii Farm Bureau's Federation has three weekly farmers' markets around O'ahu which may also include agricultural products, plate lunches, preserves, baked goods and entertainment. Their website is http://www.hfbf.org/
"The Gift of Southern Cooking" can be purchased at amazon. com, local bookstores or other online book sites.
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