Heirloom tomatoes are just one variety of fruits and produce that clients can taste firsthand on a North Shore Farm Tour. // © 2010 North Shore Farm Tours/Pamela Boyar and Annie Suite
North Shore Farm Tours are available for groups of at least
20 people. Rates start at $75 per person. For more information, agents
are advised to contact Pamela Boyar directly at 808-388-9696.
Commission: 10 percent.
On a recent trip to Oahu's North Shore, I completely expected to see big waves. What I didnít expect to see, however,
were those waves to be carrying hundreds of pineapples.
With a group of fellow travel writers, I had traveled from Honolulu to the Dole Cannery in search not of big waves per se, but of all manner of fresh, local produce, homegrown in the rich soil of Oahu.
The pineapples that I saw were bathing in a sea of slightly chlorinated water (in keeping with food safety standards), in preparation for an additional wash and application of wax (to keep them fresh) before being shipped to the mainland and the other islands.
"You want to hear a hollow sound from the pineapple to know if it's ripe or not," said Michael J. Conway, our Dole Plantation guide and manager of agriculture operations. "Look at the bottom of the pineapple. If it's bright and yellow, it's ready to eat."
The Dole Cannery was just the beginning of a customized North Shore farm tour that I took this past March. Organized with the help of the Oahu Visitors Bureau, Starwood Hawaii and Pamela Boyar and Annie Suite, the co-founders and market managers of the Haleiwa and Makeke O Maunalua Farmers' Markets, the tour would introduce us to some of the island's best -- and tastiest -- local ingredients.
Clients can go on their own North Shore Farm Tour with the help of Boyar and E Noa Tours. The customized chartered tours come with a visit to one local North Shore farm, a lunch made with local ingredients and a stop at either the Dole Plantation or Waialua Sugar Mill.
Local farm options include a visit to Poamoho Organic Produce, the largest certified organic farm on Oahu. Here, clients can taste seasonal fresh fruit from the orchard, including mango, apple banana, papaya, lychee, longan, avocado, breadfruit, jackfruit and more. At the 1Ω-acre Tin Roof Ranch, they can sip on fresh ginger-and-lemongrass iced
tea while strolling around the ranch and visiting its chickens, who enjoy the sounds of classical music on a daily basis. At North Shore Farms, LLC, clients can partake in a mozzarella demonstration and taste many varieties of fresh tomatoes. Mohala Farms introduces clients to fresh, organically grown vegetables. Chocolate lovers participate in a chocolate tasting after going on a tour through the orchards of Wailua Estate Cacao.
Visiting the farms along the North Shore is not considered a traditional tourist activity, which is exactly why it appealed so much to our group. As Hawaii locals continue to push for the use of more local ingredients and a growing farm-to-table movement, it only made sense to see the fruits of those efforts at the source.
After our initial stop at Dole, we followed a short dirt road to another of Dole's island operations -- the production of chocolate and coffee. I had no idea that, in addition to pineapples, Dole also had its hand in producing some mighty tasty coffee and chocolate; both crops have replaced land that was formerly used to grow sugar cane. At the pesticide-free coffee fields, we examined coffee trees up close and, at the cacao fields, we even tasted some raw cacao. In my humble opinion, I have to say that the finished product, chocolate, is much better tasting. After our stops in the field, I indulged my taste buds in fresh-brewed coffee and dark chocolate -- all of which came from the land that I had just visited.
Both products make excellent souvenirs, too: The coffee is sold on the islands under Dole's Waialua Coffee brand, while the chocolate can be purchased under Dole's Waialua Estate Cacao brand. Famous San Francisco-based chocolatier, Guittard, also uses cacao beans from Dole in its fine chocolates.
After we finished our breakfast of homemade, dark chocolate-dipped biscotti and light-roasted coffee, we headed to nearby Twin Bridge Farms, which grows tomatoes, potatoes and asparagus, among other fresh vegetable crops. My favorite activity here included eating asparagus, straight from the field, which was perfectly crunchy and delicious.
By the end of our tour, even though we'd already feasted on a multitude of items -- coffee, chocolate, biscotti, asparagus and even a picnic lunch prepared by one of Sheraton Waikiki's executive chefs -- I still felt hungry for more. For me, seeing, hearing about and actually handling those fruits and vegetables were just the beginning -- an appetizer, of sorts, for more Hawaiian culinary adventures to come.