Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Green and Gorgeous Kohala Coast of Hawaii

On May 14th, I flew with my husband to the Big Island of Hawaii, but my Green Bin had to stay home with the cat. I wondered how I would survive without it for nine days. But to my surprise and delight, a compost container, actually a crock with a ventilated cover, was sitting on the counter of the charming James Cottage on the Puakea Ranch where I was staying.  I was skeptical since it was white and not green but I was willing to put it to the test. I hoped to do a lot of feasting, cooking and composting Hawaiian-style on my vacation.

White ceramic compost crock

Maximum charm, minimum counter space in James Cottage

Before arriving at the ranch, we picked up supplies of local produce like pineapple, papayas, bananas, broccoli and limes,  as well as Trader Vic's Mai Tai, Myers rum, and coffee. Miraculously I discovered beautiful, vibrantly-colored mangoes at the fruit stand in Kauaihae. After ten previous trips to the islands I finally hit mango season. They are sublime!  But after stocking up I discovered that there was a mango tree right next to us, and when the trade winds blew, they thumped down on our roof and thudded to the ground, growing increasingly ripe throughout our stay. Mango heaven! Compost hell! Could the little white crock do the job and compete with green bin? All these tropical fruits have fibrous, thick and sticky skins which produce mountains of compost material. Coffee grounds contribute more grainy mulch, but here, unlike Berkeley, bones and meat products are not allowed. The final resting place for all this messy material is the compost bin in the lovely garden on the property. Since most disposable cups in Hawaii are compostable, they too are thrown into the mix.

Chard freshly picked from the garden
Typical melange of Hawaiian Compost in Earth Work Bin

Mangoes and Papayas at the fruit stand in Kawaihae

At the Saturday Farmers' market  in the tiny town of Hawi only two miles from the ranch, I found these irresistible mango tarts, large and small.  I bought a small one and devoured it on the spot.  The market consisted mainly of pastry and craft stands but there was one farmer from four miles away who sold beautiful vegetables. I bought only broccoli. The carrots were tough and woody, and I had chard and beets in "my" garden. No carrot tops for the white crock. And certainly no leftovers from the mango tart pictured below.
Fresh Mango pie at the Saturday Farmer's Market in Hawi

We  were allowed to collect eggs freshly laid by hens in the chicken coop just a few yards from our cottage. We enjoyed these beautiful birds and visited often to scout for eggs which we boiled on our electric burner. Once, we made an omelet with basil, parsley, beet greens and chard from the garden. It was such a joy to harvest herbs and veggies to our heart's content.

Freshly laid eggs
Stoveless cooking made easy
 (note white bin in background)

Selecting garden herbs for an omelet 
Our evening meals consisted mainly of ultra-fresh fish from our favorite fish store in Kawaihae, recommended by locals at the dive shop where we rented snorkel gear.  We had a great grill, so that took care of cooking equipment and I created marinades from the condiments in our cupboards:
olive oil, soy sauce, lime juice, local ginger and just a bit of our Mai Tai cocktails. I coined the name Mai Tai Mahi Mahi for this recipe. Then we tried local Monchong and we were smitten. Mai Tai Monchong was equally delicious. We boiled local red potatoes on our burner and seasoned them with butter, parsley, oregano and salt. Great with fish, and simple!

Our Favorite Fish Store where we bought Mahi Mahi and Monchong
The Trusty Grill
Beehive Ginger seen in the Botanical Garden

It turns out that Hawaii is a very green state. On the Big Island there are recycle bins everywhere,  containers and cups are eco-friendly, and farmers' markets abound. Wind turbines generate electric energy, geothermal power is obtained from nearby volcanoes Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea,  and locally grown biomass such as eucalyptus is also used to supply the island with electricity.  There is a highly visible and exciting green consciousness here.

Recycle bins at Mahu Kona - A favorite local swimming spot

Takata Store, our local favorite
I was very impressed with the white crock's composting performance but I'm happy to be heading home to my Green Bin and ample counter space. Aloha for now.

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