HAWAII’S TROPICAL CLIMATE offers up a full bounty, and you can go foraging for free food in the wild—you’ll find fruits, seaweed, some fish, and an occasional critter.
With comfy hiking shoes, sun screen, and bug repellent, head towards the mountains to pick fruit.
Look for a tall tree, with reddish pink fruits during the summer months. The fruit tastes like a cross between grandma’s rose perfume and a smooth pear, with an edible red skin and creamy white interior.
Guavas are very high in vitamin C. The bright pink and seedy interior is best when sprinkled with a packet of sugar or Splenda.
Lilikoi or passion fruit
You’ve found passion fruit if you see a wild tangle of vines, some white flowers, and green oblong fruit which develops purple skin when ripe— its heavenly scent should draw you in before you see it.
The yellow interior has a bunch of crunchy black seeds which can also be eaten.
The large, poky fruit look as if they’re pineapples or durians from afar— Ulu, or bread fruit can be cooked over an open fire, and its texture resembles Wonder bread.
Mangoes, tangerines, papayas , pumelos and pomegranates
Wander the residential areas keeping a low profile– when you come across a fruit tree loaded with fruit hanging over the sidewalk, you’ve hit a jackpot. I’ve found the best mangoes this way, in spite of having to cut off worm infested areas.
These two nuts can be found pretty much everywhere on the island.
Kukui nuts were once burned by Hawaiians to make light, or roasted and pulverized into a seasoning for raw fish. The tree bears circular brown fruit that fall to the ground to decay, leaving behind the Kukui nut. It’s poisonous when eaten raw, and edible if eaten roasted—be forewarned that excess Kukui nut consumption leads to diarrhea.
Palm trees are everywhere in Hawaii, and on occasion, you may find the unblemished coconut which had just fallen from the tree with minimal harm. Crack it open with a large stone, sip the coconut water and chew on the nutty white flesh— and of course, remember to use the shells for a coconut bra.
Limu and Ogo are two commonly eaten seaweed varieties found in the Hawaiian ocean, attached to rocks or lining the bottoms of the ocean floor. As there are many varieties, visit this site for a photos and identification guides. I’ve seen those two seaweeds sold fresh in many supermarkets, and enjoyed their salty crunch in salad or Poke (seasoned raw fish cubes).
Shallow water fishing
You don’t need a fishing permit for near shore fishing in Hawaii—all you’ll need is a pole, net, and some bait which you may be able to borrow from a kind local.
Akule and Oama fish
Akule, a miniature mackerel, and Oama, a relative of the goatfish, are the most commonly found near shore fish . These two small fish can be found in knee deep water during the early fall, around Ala Moana Beach Park on Oahu. Visit beachcombers for more detailed information.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try the ancient Hawaiian art of night fishing— grab a spear and lantern in search for octopi. For a memorable experience to take you back in time, use a kukui nut lamp, and don’t forget to wear a loin cloth made out of the softened bark of the Wauke tree.
These flattened cone-shaped clams are rare, as they’ve become over hunted, but nevertheless some can still be found in the dangerous, rocky Napali cliffs of Kauai. If you’ve lucked out and found some, eat the Opihi raw—it’s already been salted by the sea. For more information, visit this site.
If you don’t mind a drier and chewier tasting chicken compared to the store bought variety, there are many flocks of wild chickens that roam the island. I’ve seen them in some city parks such as the Diamond Head Beach Park. Don’t worry about taking just one– the wild chicken population appears to be growing, with an occasional death caused by mongoose attacks, cats, or a speeding car.
With such an abundance of wild food, why bother maxing out your budget at a restaurant?
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