Let’s Talk Food: A visit to OK Farms

Located in Wainaku along Wailuku River is OK Farms.

In 2002, Troy Keolanui partnered with Ed Olson to create a very sustainable agricultural endeavor for the Big Island. With a total of 30 employees, OK Farms specializes in high-quality tree crops on 1,000 acres. There are orchards of coffee, macadamia, lychee, palm, cacao, rambutan, longan, palm for hearts of palm and a wide variety of tropical fruits and spices.

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The day we visited, the workers were harvesting longan, which was being shipped to San Francisco. Dean and I got to taste some of the longan, freshly picked and ready to be boxed for shipping. Dean kept commenting that he had never eaten a more delicious longan!

There are more than 20,000 macadamia nut trees on 230-plus acres, which produce a half-million pounds of nut in shell each season.

The nuts harvested at OK Farms are sent to Hamakua Macadamia Nut Co. to be processed. In 2009, Richard Schnitzler, co-owner of Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company partnered with Ed Olson, whose “family trust has been involved in conserving agriculture and wildlife.”

There are a number of different flavors, such as lightly salted, wasabi, coconut glazed, Kona coffee glazed or butter rum glazed, and they all make great gifts for Christmas.

They are packaged in foil bags and are easy to pack for shipping.

Macadamia nuts are considered a healthy nut, high in monounsaturated fatty acid, or the “good fat,” which helps reduce overall cholesterol levels.

The location of OK Farms is an ideal climate for growing coffee, and the Arabica trees produce Rainbow Falls Hilo Coffee.

Hearts of palm are harvested and sent to their wholesaler, Armstrong Produce, and various restaurants throughout the state.

Citrus fruit trees such as navel oranges, tangelo, grapefruits, Meyer lemons, rainbow lemons and Tahitian limes also grow well on the property and are shipped out to their wholesaler.

Spice trees that are currently producing are allspice, cloves, curry leaves, ceylon cinnamon, mace and nutmeg. There is nothing better than very fresh spices for your pantry and I would consider these spices the freshest you could possibly get.

Ala‘amoe Keolanui makes the hydrosol solutions from their spices and leaves. Their most popular, clove hydrosol, is great for fire ant and mosquito bites, is a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, mood enhancer and even an aphrodisiac. The cinnamon hydrosol is an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal, breath freshener and mood enhancer.

OK Farms has a beekeeper, Hawaii Island Honey, who has his hives at the macadamia nut trees and produces a wonderful macadamia nut honey.

OK Farms is a great example of how we can have a sustainable industry, employing locals and selling to local businesses such as Island Naturals and local restaurants. Tourists go there as a destination and are given tours to see two falls, including Rainbow Falls; the spice road; and coffee trees and then back to the store to taste the macadamia nuts and coffee.

Thanks, Troy, Ala and Ed for this wonderful industry and delectable fruits, nuts, coffee and tropicals and for preserving agriculture!

Foodie bites

There are three basic types of cinnamon: Ceylon, korintje and Saigon.

Ceylon cinnamon is also called true cinnamon, with a mild, subtle sweet taste and a fragrant small. The cinnamon is made of thin, fragile layers rolled into a quill-like shape. It is nice to know we can get Ceylon cinnamon here in Hilo, as 90% of the world supply of Ceylon cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka. Ceylon cinnamon contains 0.4% coumarin. This percentage is important to know, and the lower the number the better, as coumarin is a fragrant yet toxic substance found in cinnamon. When taken in large amounts, it can potentially cause liver damage.

Korintje cinnamon is also known as Indonesian cassia cinnamon and comes mostly from Indonesia, with 70% of North American imports. It contains 4% coumarin levels.

Saigon cinnamon is also known as Vietnamese cassia cinnamon, is extra spicy yet sweeter in taste and contains a high level of coumarin of 8%.

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Cloves contain important nutrients such as manganese and Vitamins K and C. They are high in antioxidants, containing a compound called eugenol, which is a natural antioxidant. However, ingested in large amounts, cloves can cause liver damage. Cloves have antimicrobial properties, meaning they can help stop the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria. One study showed that clove essential oil kills bacteria such as E. coli, a strain of bacteria that can cause cramps, diarrhea, fatigue and even death. A study with rats found that the correct dosages of cloves improved liver function, reduced inflammation and decreased oxidative stress. Another animal study showed that eugenol helped reverse signs of liver cirrhosis. Unfortunately, studies on humans are very limited. Cloves can help to regulate blood sugar levels in a balanced diet.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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