There is something about an Oahu farmers’ market that makes you rooted to the place. No matter if you are a local (Kamaʻaina) or just passing through on vacation, visiting and feasting at a farmers’ market connects you to the place, its people, and its culture. By walking amongst vendors, you get a sense of the diversity of people that have settled there. Cuisine, spices and greens can tell you so much about the history of place. You easily spot Pacific Island and Asian influences, and perhaps you will come to hone your knowledge to determine specific country influences, and you will discover the most amazing array of fruits and vegetables which I challenge you to ferret out in any big chain grocery store. For example, the ginger is sold in such large segments it hints at the fact that this is a primary ingredient in many of the locals’ dishes – rather than a once-in-a-while flavoring addition like in so many mainland-USA dishes.
You will always discover something new and enticing at a farmers’ market – even if you visit weekly. A local vendor may introduce a new special, or a seasonal product, or perhaps a farmer is testing out a newly introduced vegetable or fruit from another region. Open your mind, your tastebuds, and your wallet and engage vendors in conversations about their products. Ask for samples, and by all means buy, buy, buy! Before hunting through a Hawaii farmers’ market, I was unaware of the plethora of banana varieties: there’s the ‘mainland’ banana which many of us are used to, the ‘apple-banana’, and the elusive but delicious ‘ice-cream banana’, to name a few (and don’t neglect the plantain!).
Some of my favorite markets in Oahu, Hawaii are:
click on the links to read each market’s review
- Haleiwa Farmers’ Market
- Pearlridge Farmers’ Market
- Aloha Stadium Swap Meet & Marketplace
- Kam Swap Meet
A Hawaiian farmers’ market may not be a completely ‘relaxed’ atmosphere, what with all the tour bus hordes being dropped off at various times, but if you time it right, and arrive around opening time you can enjoy your surroundings, have first pick of the choicest morsels, and get some really great photographs before other shoppers arrive. On some items, like locally grown, organic kale, lettuce, heirloom cherry tomatoes, herbs, yams, etc. you can find spectacular savings – even compared to big-box stores. But don’t be surprised when you find a little jar of lilikoi preserves is $8 (yes, that’s nearly twice as expensive as you’re favorite preserves imported from the mainland), or by that $10 bottle of salad dressing. Remember, you are supporting local, oftentimes startup companies that are trying to stay a float in a saturated, expensive market. Spend a little extra here and there to really get some local flavor into your home and you will not regret it.