Maui may be known for its recreational opportunities, its laid-back
attitude and its high-flying lifestyle. It’s odd then that one of
the island’s most famous products is entirely unglamorous the
The sweet, juicy Maui onion has been grown on the western slopes
of Haleakala volcano since about 1930. The Maui Onion Festival
celebrates that history at its 14th annual event on Sat. and Sun.,
Attendance by visitors and residents is expected to be in the
The weekend festival, presented by Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club,
runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day at Whalers Village on
Kaanapali Beach in West Maui. Admission is free.
The two-day event features both professional and amateur onion
recipe contests, cooking demonstrations by top island chefs, live
entertainment and the ever-popular and challenging onion-eating
contest (see sidebar). Kids can try their hand at the onion toss,
enter the “guess the number of onions in the bag” contest and craft
Celebrity actress Mindy Sterling, best known as Frau Farbissina
in the Austin Powers movies, will preside over the adult
onion-eating contest Aug. 2 at 3 p.m.
Bryan Otani, president of the Maui Onion Growers Association,
which represents 15 Maui onion growers in Kula, says the Maui onion
is grown year-round in the rich volcanic soils of the region at
elevations ranging from 1,200 to 4,000 feet. The onions mature from
seed in about 120 days, with sizes ranging from the pearl onion to
the 4- to 5-inch colossus that weighs in well over a pound.
The famously sweet and mild-flavored Maui onion is often eaten
raw in salads, salsas or condiments. The association sells the
specialty onions on the island of Maui, throughout the state of
Hawaii and on the mainland.
Amateur and professional chefs will compete for the best entree
in the Maui onion recipe contest. Submissions will be judged on
taste, presentation, skill in preparation and best use of Maui
onion. Recipes from past events include Sweet Glazed Maui Onion
Stuffed With Kalua Pork, Maui Onion Poppers With Spicy Pineapple
Dipping Sauce and Maui Onion Cumin Vinaigrette.
Live cooking demonstrations are scheduled throughout each day
featuring onion-themed dishes from top island chefs.
Local manufacturers and farmers alongside the signature
restaurants of Whalers Village showcase onion and non-onion foods
and gift items in various booths.
The lineup includes prized onion rings from the Maui Onion
Growers Association, Maui Onion Kettle Corn from Maui Kazowee
Kettle Corn and Maui onion jellies and sauces from the Maui Jelly
Whalers Village, 808-661-4567; www.whalersvillage.com.