A Sweet Harvest In Kapahi
George Mukai’s gardens meander through his residential property in Kapahi. At 85 years old, he can still climb 25-foot ladders to harvest fruit and cut thick stalks of sugarcane.
What’s growing: Asparagus, apple bananas, avocado, breadfruit, flowers, Hawaiian chili pepper, honey tangerine, lilikoi, lychee, macadamia nut, mango, mulberry, noni, Okinawan spinach, oriental squash, papaya, pomelo, short yard beans, soursop, star fruit, sugarcane, sweet pepper.
After going through a refining process, sugarcane is used for table sugar, molasses, rum and ethanol. Several species of Saccharum are found in Southeast Asia and neighboring islands, where cultivated cane likely originated. The sweet juice and crystallized sugar were known in China and India some 2,500 years ago. Sugarcane reached Mediterranean countries in the 8th century A.D., and the Americas in early colonial times.
Sugarcane is considered a canoe crop, since it was brought to Hawaii by Polynesians who called it “ko,” with a kahako or line over the “o.” According to the book, The Story of Koloa, by Donald Donohugh, Koloa Marsh was famous for its large size and sugar-cane, which grew abundantly. Since “ko” means “sugarcane,” and “loa,” when used with sugarcane, means “tall,” “Koloa” translated means “tall cane.” Early commerce centered in Koloa, where the sugar industry of Hawaii started in 1835.
Koloa Rum Company is growing sugarcane, and the juice will be used to ferment and distill its rum. Rhum Agricole, made from fresh-pressed cane juice, is popular in the French Caribbean Islands.
“We have approximately 10 acres of sugarcane growing now,” says Bob Gunter, Koloa Rum Company pres- ident. “One field is near Koloa town, and a larger field is out in Kaumakani on G&R Plantation land. We will be conducting large-scale fermentation and distillation trials using cane juice early next year.”
Season: At low elevation, the duration from planting to harvest is about 24 months. At high elevation, the crop is grown for up to three years before harvesting.
Preparation: To make sugarcane juice, cut the stalk with a sharp knife into manageable pieces, about 6 inches long. Peel away outer stalk by wedging the knife between the core and peel, then bend back the outer stalk. Cut these segments into 3-inch pieces, put them in a blender and puree into a fine pulp. Strain juice with a clean, cheese-making bag (available at a health food store) or paint bag (available at Ace Hardware).
Health benefits: Sugarcane contains calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, iron and vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6. It also has a high concentration of phytonutrients (including chlorophyll), antioxidants, proteins, soluble fiber. Working synergistically, these nutrients provide a health-promoting food that has been studied for its role in fighting cancer, stabilizing blood-sugar levels in diabetics, assisting in weight loss, reducing fevers and clearing the kidneys.
George Mukai’s produce can be found at: Anahola Fruit Stand, and Kapaa Fruit Stand in Roxy Square. Mukai also sells to Esaki’s Produce.
For orders, call Mukai at 822-4568.
THE CLASSIC DAIQUIRI
In the spirit of Kauai sugarcane and Koloa Rum, I asked Dave Power, co-owner and bartender of The Feral Pig, to contribute a recipe. “I love going to the daiquiri,” he says. “The simplicity of that drink, when made well with good ingredients, is hard to beat.”
* 2 ounces White Koloa Rum
* 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice (go to the farmers market to get the freshest locally raised limes you can find)
* 1/2 ounce fresh sugar-cane juice
Put everything into a cocktail shaker filled three-quarters with ice and shake hard for 20 seconds. Pour the drink, including the ice, into your glass. Adjust the drink’s sweetness to you or your guests’ taste, find a shady hammock strung between two coconut palms and enjoy one of the greatest drinks ever created.
What would I do if it was later in the evening? I’d do everything the same, except strain the cocktail into a cocktail glass and add a dash or two of bitters on top. The glass will give the drink a little more sophistication, and the bitters will add a little depth to the flavors of the drink.
Marta Lane is a freelance food writer. Visit TastingKauai.com.