Thursday, April 29, 2004

New fruit orchard in Kona
intended to educate public

KEALAKEKUA, Hawaii >> Members of the Kona Pacific Farmers Cooperative planned to break ground today for a small South Kona orchard to educate the public about tropical fruit crops.

The Twelve Trees Project Orchard and Educational Center on Napoopoo Road is a three-year project funded by $156,800 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the University of Hawaii's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

A group of about 50 chefs selected 12 fruits grown in West Hawaii that they wanted to use more often in their cooking, said Ken Love, manager of the project.

Some of the fruits are not especially different from their better-known cousins. For example, the Rangpur lime, which Love plans to rename the Kona lime, has been grown in Kona since 1858. Its orange flesh makes it look like a tangerine, but it is very sour, Love said.

A Kona chef has used it to create a Rangpur lime cheesecake, he said.

The other fruits planned for the 1.5-acre orchard are brown turkey fig, cherimoya, kumquat, loquat, Mysore raspberry, poha, pomegranate, strawberry guava, Surinam cherry, tree tomato and tropical apricot.

With rapid growth in West Hawaii, many newcomers are unfamiliar with local fruit, Love said.

"Some folks don't know the difference between a lilikoi and a guava," he said.

Besides showing residents what is available and providing fruit for chefs, the Twelve Trees orchard will show how to grow the crops.

For example, fruits grown with a bag over each one to protect them from insects sound labor-intensive but have been shown to save labor costs in the long run, said Dick Bowen, grant coordinator and an agricultural economist at the University of Hawaii.

Since funding came from a federal source for "sustainable" agriculture, project partners decided to make the orchard organic, he said.

The Kona Pacific Farmers Cooperative consists of about 300 coffee and macadamia farmers, Bowen said.

Tropical fruits present an opportunity for them to diversify their crops, he said.

"Coffee isn't always profitable," he said.

The orchard will be on co-op land next to the Kona Coffee Mill and Museum and will be designed as a garden where tourists can stroll.


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