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Stumped coffee trees.

Three year olds meet the ax again

Last week the trees that were stumped in 2018 were stumped for their second time. We have three blocks; every year one block will be stumped in Jan/Feb. That means only 2/3 of the land is productive every year. And one third gets to concentrate on growing without producing fruit (or potential beetle homes). Every time we think it looks pretty devastating, yet it does also tidy up the land, especially once the cuttings are chipped and used to mulch around the trees.

Here’s a little photo update on the other trees recently planted.

Bea's California coffee

Want to be a Californian coffee farmer?

I’ve written a few posts about the recent movement to grow coffee in California. Brief aside, this is a good opportunity to metaphorically teach you to fish. At the bottom of all the website pages, there’s a Search text box. You could put in “California” to find search hits within our website to find those old articles.

Here for your amusement are a few more recent stories on the topic:

Coffee in San Diego North County

And, for a lifestyle farm just under 10 acres in size in Montecito, you’ll need just under $15M. What do you think the probability is your farm business would ever be profitable?

Since we’re on the topic of terroir, here’s a succinct reminder from Luxury Travel Magazine, “What’s the Fuss About Kona Coffee From the Big Island?

And, a follow-up on the topic of my fear of planting trees, the avocado we planted in November, grew six inches in the past six weeks. We recently picked up a few different plants just because we saw them while at Ace Hardware and recognized they were on our list of desired plants that we keep a lookout for. I’m happy to report that we have our new plant little-fire-ant quarantine process down, which gives us peace of mind, and the plants were all ant free.

Hubby just planted a Yamagata avocado near the Kahalu’u one. I thought he planted it too close. It was 13 feet away, but the recommendation is to plant them 25-35 feet apart. It is just so hard to imagine the potential of these now young 3-4 foot tall trees. He insists he’s going to aggressively prune them, but I convinced him to move it now. It’s so much easier in the long run. They’re now 21 feet apart.

'Ulu

Please won’t you be my neighbor? Meet ‘ulu

From the eatbreadfruit.com site, “E hālāwai pu me ka ‘ulu,” in other words, meet ‘ulu, or breadfruit. One of our adjacent neighbors is the Hawaii Ulu Cooperative, at the former location of the Food Basket Warehouse. We see a bit of their buildings peeking through the gigantic weed trees on the border (on their side), the African tulips and autograph plants. We occasionally hear the machinery running.

I really like what they’re doing. From their website, “The co-op is committed to the revival of ‘ulu to strengthen Hawai‘i’s food security and to the value of aloha ‘āina (love for the land) ….” According to the foodsecurityhawaii.org website, Hawaii imports 85% of its food. There was an article about the ‘ulu coop a few weeks ago in West Hawaii Today, “Hawaii Ulu Cooperative wants to see breadfruit on your plate.” Here’s an earlier article about the fruit itself.

It was quite some years ago that we got turned on to breadfruit. My aunty grew them, and even they didn’t really eat them earlier, but she told us how she discovered to really like them. She let them ripen until they were pretty soft to touch, then sliced it in half and baked it at 350. They smell so delicious, like a baking cake. It has a beautiful yellow color, a soft, starchy texture, and a slight pineapple, sweet potato taste. I love them served together with baked ube (purple sweet potato). I don’t add a thing (no butter, salt or spices required). But there are many other ways to enjoy them. For one, I made an ‘ulu chowder with hard ‘ulu, which you can use like a potato. Hubby says he wouldn’t, however, be able to eat ‘ulu as frequently as the Norwegian boy could eat potatoes. I’ve also enjoyed ‘ulu hummus from the store and the ‘ulu wedges at Magics Beach Grill.

Breadfruit grows well where we are and better where there’s a bit more rain than we get. If you drive along the Mamalahoa Hwy or in South Kona, you’ll see many huge breadfruit trees (some pruned horribly, e.g., just lopped where they get close to power lines). ‘Ulu has beautiful leaves and gives anywhere they grow a jungly, tropical feel.

  • 'ulu nursery at the 'Ulu Coop.

If you get a chance, try them, and try a fresh one if you can. If you’re in Hawaii you might have better luck finding them at a farmers market than at the grocery store. And there are times when fresh fruit are harder to come by. Also, factor in time to ripen if you can only find a hard one, or count on trying a recipe that works with firm ‘ulu.

Today I’ll leave you with a few images of Kona snow. These are the trees that were stumped a year ago. They’re ready to go now!

closeup Kona coffee blossoms

Winter on the Farm. January 2021

Winter on the farm. It’s a cool 63 degrees most mornings around 6am. Afternoons might reach 80 if the sun is out. Today (Monday, Jan. 25) at 4pm it’s lightly raining and only 70 degrees. The hubby is watching the World Cup cross-country skiing competition streamed from a Norwegian TV channel. Who woulda thunk he’d be living so far in distance and lifestyle from Norway. During daylight saving time, there’s a 12 hour time difference between Hawaii and Norway (11 hours in winter). That’s pretty much the worse jet lag conditions you can experience. Today, instead of being surrounded by snow, he has Kona snow.

It’s not unusual for mornings to be overcast, or there might be dark clouds over the ocean. The shoreline is about 1.75 miles away “as the crow flies.” If we’re looking at the ocean, the sun rises from behind us, lighting up the dark, grey ocean. It provides favorable whale watching conditions. You can see whale spouts with your naked eye, and then you might see a dark spot disturb the water, the whale breaking the surface. That’s an indication to get out the binoculars.

After a month where it rained only two times, two weeks apart, we’ve had a run of seven straight days with rain every late afternoon. After a few dry days, today is an odd day, where it started raining about 5am and has continued off and on and no blue sky seen all day. The flower buds have been opening, and it’ll be about seven months until we see ripe fruit. It’s a light/medium amount of blossoms. It’s not yet the days of glorious, fragrant Kona snow on almost every tree everywhere at all the farms. That’ll be a future round of blossoms.

We haven’t seen or heard them, but the pua’a, the wild pigs, the bane of many coffee farmers, are rooting around, rototilling the area. We see evidence of their destruction. The best solution seems to be really good fencing. We’ll probably never do that though.

On another note, we’re nurturing some coffee keiki (kids), volunteer seedlings, also called pulapulas (pulled from the ground). That’s how Grandpa would add new trees. Pulapulas would often come up near rock walls, where seeds and water would tend to accumulate.

However, for at least two decades root-knot nematodes have been a serious problem in Kona Typica trees, seriously impacting tree health, viability, and fruit yield. In 2002 the university estimated that 85% of Kona Typica trees were impacted by nematodes. And pulapulas might be one way nematodes are spread. Nowadays, farmers prefer to plant young grafted coffee trees using nematode-resistant root stock. Still, we’re considering experimenting with planting some of our own pulapulas to see what happens. It’s not like we’re moving plant material from one farm to another, but it will likely be from one area of the farm to another. We’re nursing the keiki for now, and we have time to read/learn more about what the risks are.

Volunteer coffee seedlings (pulapula) in pots
Bunches of green bananas.

Time for a break from coffee. Going bananas!

Do you know how to “pick” bananas? See my husband in the bottom left of the photo? He’s the little, light blue thing that stands six feet tall.

Hint: no ladder or heavy equipment is required.

banana trunk

Most of us refer to bananas growing on trees or palms, but they aren’t trees or palms. They’re banana plants, a perennial herb with succulent, juicy stems that arise from a fleshy corm. New leaves push up from growing points on the corm below the ground. The banana “tree” is a pseudo-stem or trunk and is not woody. Notice the cut trunk in the photo. It consists of all the leaf stalks furled around each other, and the leaves emerge from the center. The flower also debuts from the middle and finally turns into a bunch of bananas.

Once the trunk produces fruit, it will never produce fruit again. So you harvest bananas by cutting the trunk, the “tree.” There are other pups or suckers that grow from other growing points on the corm near the main trunk. Those will grow to give you more bananas. To keep your grove manageable, it’s best to cut and remove the fruiting trunk. Our grove has productive and unproductive trunks. The old trunks are still useful as part of a living sound and sight barrier.

My husband has perfected his harvesting technique. The goal is to have the trunk slowly fall so the fruit won’t slam from its height down to the ground. He cuts as high as he can reach, and cuts about 2/3 through the trunk on the opposite side that he wants the trunk to fall. He watches what happens. He might then make a couple of more cuts lower down, so that the trunk bends or articulates at the cut locations. Don’t wear any clothes you care about when you do this job. Banana juice/sap stains dark brown.

This time the bananas to harvest were on a trunk inside the grove. My husband Rune is inside there, cutting as high as he can. There are a few spindly coffee trees in the foreground; bananas do dominate their space.

Once the trunk was cut, it was still propped up by trunks in front of it. This one had to be cut to let the desired trunk fall. Conveniently, it fell right on our huge compost pile of mostly felled banana trunks.
Hawaiian hawk ('io)
At this point, we were delighted when a Hawaiian hawk (‘io) flew on to our banana plants. We watched it until it flew away. When we later confirmed the type of bird, I learned that it was only removed from the endangered list in 2020! They are only found on the Big Island. (If we hadn’t brought the good camera down to document banana harvesting, we wouldn’t have been able to get such a good photo.)
After the bananas were harvested, he still had to clean out that felled trunk.

By the way, it happened to rain the whole time we were out with the bananas. It is hard work for the harvester, but most of that moisture on his t-shirt is rain not sweat.

Here’s the previous harvest on New Year’s Day. The photo shows two stalks of apple bananas, with the stalks partially divided. A definition of banana parts would be useful here: “A single banana is called a finger. A grouping of attached “fingers” make up a “hand” of bananas. Multiple hands that grow in a cluster are called a bunch or stalk—a bunch of bananas may contain 3 to 20 hands!” (from https://kids.sandiegozoo.org/stories/go-bananas)

What do we do with so many bananas? Mostly share! Most family & friends do their part and will usually accept a hand or two. Many eat them, and many make banana muffins or bread or dehydrate them. Still, we had two big hands that ripened pretty rapidly. This time we wanted to try making banana ketchup! It’s apparently a popular condiment in the Philippines.

We like it! It reminds us a bit of tamarillo (tree tomato) chutney more than tomato ketchup. We like tamarillo chutney with lamb chops. In any case, the next part of experimentation involves discovering what goes well with banana ketchup. We think probably pork, chicken, fish, burgers, and breakfast potatoes.

I’m on the Hunter Family’s fish list. On Friday afternoons, I receive a text stating what fish they caught and what I can order to pick up the next morning at the Keauhou Farmer’s Market. Yesterday I picked up ono and some bok choy. For dinner we had rice, bok choy, a few slices of leftover baked ube (purple sweet potato), and broiled ono (that was basted in shoyu, butter, salt & pepper). The ketchup was a nice condiment with the ono and the ube.

Here’s our ketchup recipe, adapted from Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Barbeque by Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe. We made it more Hawaiian and did some tweaks.

Banana Ketchup

2 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp peanut butter
1 small sweet Maui onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (next time we’ll try some fresh turmeric root)
1/2 tsp ground allspice
6 ripe apple bananas, mashed (we’ll note total weight next time, since bananas can vary a lot in size)
1/2 c white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp kiawe honey
2 Tbsp Koloa Kaua’i dark Hawaiian rum
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil.
Add the peanut butter, onion, garlic, jalapeño, and ginger.
Cook about 6 minutes until the onion is translucent.
Add turmeric and allspice; cook for 1 minute.
Add bananas and mix well.
Add remaining ingredients and bring to simmer.
Cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring often.
Remove from heat to cool.
When cool, blend in food processor or blender.
Serve at room temperature.
Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.