Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: Hilo Farmers Market

Let's talk Hilo today!

As in beautiful Hilo, Hawaii…located on the eastern side of the "Big Island" - the newest, and most interesting (in my opinion), of the Hawaiian islands. After slaving and toiling and sweating for several long, exhausting days (can you see I'm milking this?) on our recent mission trip, it was time to put down our tools and jump in the van for some much-needed respite from our physical labors.

We spent the morning at the very diverse, and very festive Hilo Farmers Market…a conglomeration of approximately 200 booths with such offerings as fruits, flowers, crafts, clothing and jewelry. The Market is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, beginning at 6:00 am and lasting for most of the day - or until the vendors are either tired themselves or sold out. I had visited this same Market back in 2008, and I remembered it as being one that requires careful exploration of everything it has to offer.

It's located right along Hilo Bay, in historic downtown Hilo…there's nearby parking, but a suggestion would be to arrive early, as the parking will quickly fill up. After securing our van, I quickly crossed busy Kamahameha Avenue, and decided to first explore the "food & flower" side of the Market.

There were TONS of fruit and vegetable vendors, with a virtual cornucopia of vegetarian delights…most of which I COULD identify:

…such as pineapples and bananas (cuz I'm smart like that)…but some of which I had NO IDEA what the heck they were:

…such as these sea urchin-looking spiky things. I'm sorry, but these…thingies…could be the most AWESOME tasting things on the planet, but when something looks like it can HURT me, I tend to stay away from it.

Most of the vendors were very willing to let you sample the wares, so I would suggest going hungry. Besides the produce, there were lots of baked goods, hot sauces, and flower booths - an explosion of colors, sights and smells, with dozens of frenzied shoppers all scurrying here and there, elbowing each other out to get the best deal on the best product.

I eventually crossed Mamo Street, which then found me in the Crafts, Clothing and Misc side of the Market…and I first approached a booth that offered jewelry. Duh. Where ELSE would the Drama Queen head to, if not looking for free food samples? Bright, shiny objects are my second love, so it was a no-brainer. The young artist here, Kristof, showed me her hand-made wares, which were really unique. I think half the fun in Farmers Markets is chatting with the vendors, especially the artists - as I love to hear their stories on how they were inspired. I eventually purchased this set:

Oh, how I wish you could reach through your screen and touch these…because the little black "pearls" are very soft and fuzzy. In fact, Kristof's booth is called "Velvet Jewelry" (www.VelvetJewelry.com) - as she makes her pieces from the mgambo seed, which is known as the Hawaiian Pussy Willow. I love pieces that are unique and remind me of the places I've traveled, and I think this set is perfect for that.

After finishing up my purchase, a couple from my mission team walked up and asked me if I had discovered the gluten-free bread, that was being sold back over in the Food side of the Market.

Wait, what? Gluten-free bread? Ack. I had missed this little delight, but promised that I would make my way back over there soon to discover it.

Moving on, I found myself surrounded by a multitude of t-shirt booths…but I was looking for something unique, once again…something that not every other tourist on the island would have. I found it at a little booth tucked towards the back, where I met this gentleman:

Meet Ken Iwata, an artist who hand paints t-shirts, therefore insuring that no two t-shirts will ever be alike. After admiring his wares, I ended up purchasing a really cool shirt, and asked him to sign it for me, which he willingly did:

All of this conversing and shopping (but mainly conversing, go figure) had left me thirsty, and I was in luck. There's a little food cart tucked away that offered up a delicious smoothie with kale, pineapple and banana…just the ticket for a hot and sunny day in Hilo. Gah, I wished I'd taken a picture of the cart, because it was a little hidden oasis, and I would most definitely recommend it for future Market visitors.

Strolling through the Craft market once more, sipping on my little delicious piece of delicious, I ran into another couple from my mission team. They immediately asked me if I'd seen the gluten-free bread that was being sold back over in the Food side of the Market, and I once again replied that, "No, I'd missed it" - but promised, again, to head back over there to find it. I loved how my mission team was taking care of me.

Walking along, I found myself approaching a table that was offering a book. Just one book…but it intrigued me. I ended up chatting with Colonel Chuck Sanders, aka Bishop Dr. Charles E Sanders DCCom, Drk, PhD, and author of the book, "Life After Vietnam, When Chucky Comes Marching Home."

Colonel Chuck was really interesting, and he was gracious enough to sign my book for me:

About this time, another couple from my mission team saw me and started approaching, so I immediately said, "Ack! NO! I didn't see the gluten-free bread, but I'm heading over there now!!!!" They looked at me like I was crazy, so perhaps I jumped the gun in assuming that's what they were going to say to me. Oops.

It didn't take long to discover the little bakery that was selling the gluten-free bread, and I must tell you, Dear Readers, that the entire trip/cost to Hawaii was worth it once I got a taste of this delight. EEP! Oh heavens, it was FABULOUS!

I haven't had bread this good since…well…since I gave up bread! This bread had layer upon layer of different and subtle flavors, perhaps due to the variety of flour that was used in the mix. It was TO. DIE. FOR. Nom nom nom.

I was now a very happy camper, what with my unique purchases, my interesting conversations with the locals, and my bread…so I ambled my way back over to the parking lot, to await the return of my fellow team members. Along the way, I snapped some cool pics of the trees near the market:

The Monkeypod trees are found all over Hawaii, and are rather unique. A single stalk and branches that grow into a HUGE canopy, the grass is ALWAYS greener under them, as their leaves release nitrogen that fertilizes the soil under the tree. They make GREAT sitting-in-the-shade and chillaxin' trees. Just don't sit under one during a rainstorm, though, as their branches tend to break off - and that could kinda' hurt.

I also discovered this really cool Banyan Tree:

I see a lot of these in Florida, but they're always fun and always cool…they remind me of a Sheepdog, for some reason…especially as seen from THIS view that I snapped:

So…the Hilo Farmers Market…a MUST-SEE if you're ever visiting the Big Island, on a Wednesday or Saturday. Take your time…soak up the ambiance…talk with the vendors…enjoy the free samples…

…and DON'T MISS THE GLUTEN-FREE BREAD, or you'll NEVER hear the end of it.




MariK said...

That thing with thorns is called Durian. It tastes ok, but it smells very bad.
It is common in Thailand - and most hotels have a restriction that it cannot be brought in, because of that bad smell.

Sherri O said...

See, now I've learned something…and I'm glad you warned me about the smell. If something LOOKS awful - and SMELLS awful - I don't care how good it's going to taste - because I'll pass, thank you very much. ;)