Pineapple Fields Forever

Paul and Jude Huber have been growing Kaua’i Sugarloaf white pineapple and rambutan on 38 acres in Moloaa since 1995. Hole in the Mountain Farm grows 25,000 pineapple plants and may be Kaua’i’s largest pineapple farm. Selective forcing on a weekly basis enables the Hubers to grow pineapple outside its usual summer season.

At the market, pineapple costs $3.50 a pound. When purchasing, Jude will ask if you want the top. If you don’t need it, she swiftly will twist it off and bring it back to her farm for propagation.

What’s growing: Kaua’i Sugarloaf White Pineapple, rambutan

KAUA’I SUGARLOAF WHITE PINEAPPLE

There are varying stories as to the origin of white pineapple in Hawaii. The story Paul Huber heard gives plantation workers on Lanai credit. While harvesting in the field, they found a variation of Smooth Cayenne, which was grown widely in Hawaii. Because it’s a softer pineapple, its fragility complicated commercial production.

“You drop it once,” says Paul, “and it’s mush.”

Workers called it Sugarloaf and grew the natural strain in their backyards because it’s more tender and has a lower acid content than Smooth Cayenne. Many people who cannot tolerate acidity in regular pineapple, have no problem with white pineapple.

“I was talking to Earl at Esaki’s Produce,” says Jude, “and he told me the workers on Lanai called it Sugarloaf because of its tendency to fall over and become mis-shaped, like a loaf.”

Season: Pineapple becomes ripe starting in mid-June, peaks in mid-July and tapers off in September. Beginning in October, Hole in the Mountain Farm will have pineapple year-round. Right now, it’s available until September.

What to look for: There are numerous factors to consider when deciding if a Sugarloaf White Pineapple is ripe. They include skin color that ranges from burgundy to deep green, and bulging eyes that are yellow at the center. There is a “skirt” over the lower half of each eye, and its color does not determine ripeness. Ripe Sugarloaf may or may not have a noticeable smell.

“At the market, I tell people to know your farmer,” says Jude, who hand-selects each pineapple every week. “It took two years to get there, so I’m not going to sell a pineapple that’s not perfect. Plus, there are unscrupulous vendors who buy pineapple at the store and resell it at the farmers market.”

To watch a Kaua’i Grown video about Hole in the Mountain Farm, visit kauaigrown.org/hole-in-the-mountain-farm.

Storage: The clean, delicate taste of white pineapple is best enjoyed right away at room temperature. However, it will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Tip: “Testing a pineapple for ripeness by tugging on a leaf to see if it comes out easily, is a complete and utter myth,” explains Jude. “Sometimes they come out easy, sometimes they don’t.”

Preparation: Pineapple flesh and juice are used in cuisines around the world. Pineapples are consumed fresh, cooked, juiced or preserved. Cubes of fresh pineapple can be enjoyed in savory dishes such as stir-fries, hamburgers and as a pizza toping. Crushed pineapple can be used as a yogurt, pastry or ice cream topping, and cooking pineapple intensifies its juicy flavors. Raw juice from the pineapple’s core may be used in a marinade as a meat tenderizer and flavor enhancer.

Health benefits: Raw pineapple is an excellent source of manganese (76 percent daily value in one cup) and vitamin C (131 percent DV per cup). Mainly from its core, pineapple contains a proteolytic enzyme, bromelain, which breaks down protein.

Hole in the Mountain Farm’s produce can be found at: Kaua’i Culinary Market (Wednesdays 3:30 to 6 p.m.), Kaua’i Community College (Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Jude says to come early because she sells out quickly. If you’d like to send a taste of Kaua’i to someone, Hole in the Mountain Farm ships to the Mainland.

For more information, visit KauaiSugarloaf.com.

SPICY PINEAPPLE POPS

To me, the delicate flavor and sweet aroma of white pineapple is best enjoyed fresh and at room temperature. But if you find yourself wanting something different, this popsicle recipe fits the bill. Chunks of pineapple and chili pepper flakes create a sweet heat that can’t be beat. Makes eight servings.

* 4 cups Kaua’i Sugarloaf White Pineapple, roughly chopped
* 3/4 cup Kaua’i Sugarloaf White Pineapple, diced
* 2 Hawaiian chili peppers, split lengthwise
* 1/2 cup water
* 1/4 cup sugar
* juice of 1 lime
* 2 teaspoons chili pepper flakes (I used Aleppo)
* 1/2 teaspoon Hawaiian alaea sea salt

Place water, sugar and Hawaiian chili peppers in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer for five minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Combine diced pineapple, chili pepper flakes and sea salt. Set chili syrup aside.

Add four cups of chopped pineapple, lime juice and chili syrup to a food processor or blender. Process until no chunks are left.

Pour mixture in a popsicle mold until it’s two-thirds full. Top with diced pineapple mixture and stir through. Proceed according to your popsicle mold directions.

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. Visit TastingKauai.com.

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