They grow all over the place — some of the glossy green fruit is collected by thrifty residents and curious visitors. Much of it is left to rot on the ground.
The akamai know many uses for the humble avocado. The typically mild tasting, nutritious fruit takes to other flavors well. It willingly accepts the essence of many spices. It will swirl alongside cucumber in a soup. It has a strong friendship with lime, and agrees surprisingly well with chocolate.
The results of these friendships can be a surprising array of cuisine, ranging from pupu to entrees and desserts, all with avocado at the center.
Bob and Ruby Snowden found the tasting line at the eighth annual Hawaii Avocado Festival at the Sheraton Kona Resort &Spa at Keauhou Bay on Saturday, and figured it was a good place to start. Participants sampled the nine entries in the avocado recipe contest — avocado hummus, avocado chocolate cake and avocado Key lime pudding to name a few.
“I do love the chocolate avocado,” Ruby Snowden said. “Who would have thought?”
Her husband was receptive but not sold on the avocado chocolate mousse.
“Interesting is a better term for me,” he said. “Because I can taste the avo in it. It’s good, but it’s odd.”
Avocado was the star but not the only player at the event, which had the concept of sustainability at its core and featured 30 vendors, discussions on avocado propagation, an eco-fashion show and even a booth with cookers that could bake a chicken in two hours on the power of the sun’s rays alone. Merle Hayward of Hilo demonstrated the solar cooking pot, which was surrounded by leaves of polished, reflective aluminum. The pot kept an avocado soup of her own making up to temperature and was capable of cooking at 350 degrees, she said.
The event’s founder and organizer Randyl Rupar estimated the festival was on course to match some 2,000 attendees last year. Rupar kicked off the festival eight years ago with a celebration that drew 300 people. He then moved the event from his farm to the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden until the event outgrew that facility as well.
“Sustainability is really about your lifestyle and your choices,” said Rupar, a strong opponent of genetically modified foods. “I want to support organic agriculture and I want to understand what I eat. If I don’t know what is in the food I choose, how do I know what I’m eating?”
Debra Jacobsen made avocado smoothies at a booth with a poster that highlighted the 200-some varieties of avocado currently growing on the island. She sliced open a plump Yamagata avocado and blended it with banana, coconut milk and almonds. The smoothie can be sweetened with maple syrup or pineapple juice, she said.
“It’s an incredible island for avos,” Jacobsen said. “They’re abundant almost year-round.”
Ken Love of Love Family Farms in Captain Cook said the state produces about 1.4 million pounds of the fruit.
“But we still bring about 3 million pounds into the state and we need to reclaim that market,” said Love, who is executive director of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers. “We probably waste another 7 million pounds. They grow and drop and nobody cares about them.”
An Italian salad garnished with Cherokee purple tomatoes and macadamia nut cheese carried the day at the recipe contest. The dish’s creator, Cynthia McCagh of Kealakekua, moved here from the mainland a year ago and was excited to find avocados growing near where she lives.
“I came to the festival last year and loved the community spirit and sharing food,” said McCagh, a plant-based and raw living foods chef.
McCagh started the macadamia nut cheese on Tuesday and added flavors into the cheese over several days. She had picked African basil on her property a month ago and used it to infuse olive oil for the winning dish.
“Images (for a recipe) come to me in dreams,” she said. “And if I don’t make it, it’ll play like a broken record.”
Entry recipes were slated to be posted online at soniatasteshawaii.com