bean use

These baby beans became a bush bean explosion. bean 1 (950x713)

We plant these regularly to replenish nitrogen in the soil.  After a heavy feeding crop such as broccoli, cabbage,  daikon, parsnips, beets or carrots we plant beans.  We then plant a light feeder and fertilize with a well balanced fertilizer such as Char fish and Bio-Char from the Big Island, some bokashi, spirulina and compost.   After adding these amendments we plant a root crop or some brassicas in winter.  I like the bush beans because they reach maturity in 30 days and there is no need for a trellis.

To save beans seeds, leave some bean pods on a plant until they dry out.   Leaving them on the plant enables them to continue to absorb maximum nutrients until the end of their life cycle.  Once they have dried out, faded and  hardened  remove the bean pods from the plant and let them continue to dry  in a shaded area for another two weeks.  Open the beans and plant them 3 inches apart.

For the seared ahi recipe I simply trimmed the bean tips and tossed them with olive oil, chopped basil, green onion, garlic, salt and black pepper.  I also added our Japanese turnips to this mixture.  After washing the turnips very well I chop them into one inch cubes and roast all ingredients together in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

use (950x713)I’ll begin this recipe post with an explanation of my devotion to the Stick Cabbage.  Stick cabbage is by far one of my favorite, least expected treasures of this year.  Maybe not as treasured as the parsnips but pretty close.  A gardening friend Joe gave us this plant which I just stuck in the ground without expectations.  I find my serenity regarding gardening (and pretty much everything else) is in direct proportion to my expectations.  The higher my expectations the more precarious my serenity.  I had never eaten stick cabbage and didn’t know anything about it except for what Joe told me.  He said it was from the Azores and it was good sauteed.  My husband Paul’s family is from the Azores so we took it as a sign that we should try growing this plant.

After a couple of weeks stick cabbage was looking pretty good.  It started attracting some aphids but I sprayed it with a heavy stream of water every day for a few days and that took care of them.

I started doing a little research on it and it turns out it did not originate from the Azores but from Jersey, one of the Channel Islands near Normandy.  This was not a total disappointment however, because one of my favorite authors Victor Hugo, based an epic novel, Toilers of the Sea around this geographic zone.

Stick Cabbage has an interesting look to it.  The leaves look like collard greens or cabbage leaves but they propagate new clusters of leaves along the stalk creating multiple nodes every 3-4 inches as it increases in height.  One could essentially break off a node, put it in the ground and grow another stick cabbage. Which is exactly what we did.  The average height is 7 feet after 2-3 years but there is documentation of it growing up to 16 feet.

Historically, Stick Cabbage also known as Jersey Kale or Walking Stick Kale, was grown for multiple uses. Documentation of this Brassica began in the early 1900’s where it is reported to have provided food for the table, wrappings for butter and cheese, and an excellent and now forgotten fodder for sheep or cattle. Photographs of the time depict a dozen of them sheltering the door of a little hut, and big clusters grown to supply cattle with food.  Sixty plants would provide sufficient fodder for a cow for an entire year lasting four years without fresh planting since only the side leaves were used.  Sheep fed upon the walking stick cabbages were said to produce wool of the finest silken texture up to 25 inches long.  They can also be seen in a line along the edge of a garden, forming a picturesque tidy border and a quaint kind of fence.


Cabbage stems were also used for roofing small buildings by the islanders, but their most lucrative transformation was into the production of walking sticks.  To yield a strong, straight stem the lower leaves were stripped off as the plant grew.  After several months the stems were dried and then smoothed, varnished, embellished and sold to tourists for a shilling.

The reason I am spending a considerable amount of time on this seemingly inconsequential plant is that it tastes so wonderful!  It’s versatile, flavorful, effortless to grow and unique.  I assume it’s nutritious because it’s a brassica and the deep green leaves indicate ample amounts of chlorophyll. I would like to say I had researched data on this but my research ended quickly when I googled “nutrition stick cabbage” and the only websites that appeared featured the “cabbage diet” and how to “stick to it”.  Obviously the internet is not the only source for data so I will continue my search for stick cabbage nutrition elsewhere.

My two favorite uses for the cabbage leaves are to saute them with green onion, garlic, fresh herbs and salt and to use them for wraps.  I have also used them in soup and roasted them with vegetables.  What is interesting to me is that they resemble collards in appearance but the flavor and texture is somewhat different.  A subtle blend of the tender Red Russian Kale and the flavor of broccoli.  The fact that it is such a high producing, long lasting plant is another big attraction for me.  I give it compost once a month and some bokashi and spirulina tea every so often and it remains healthy and pest free.  We planted ours 7 months ago and it is now 3 feet tall and we harvest from it 3 times per week.  It is definitely an appreciated staple in our home.

For sauteing, I cut the ribs out and lay about 3 stick cabbages on top of each other.  I then roll them up width wise and cut them into 1/2 to 1 inch strips.

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I then saute the strips in olive oil, green onion, garlic, fresh herbs,  salt and black pepper.  I’ve used savory herbs such as sage, marjoram, thyme as well as basil and tarragon.  Saute time is only about 3 minutes.  Just enough to soften it and bring out it’s rich flavor.  It’s compatible with most herbs but I have also sauteed it with just the green onion, garlic, salt and pepper and it is just as delicious.

For wraps I lay the leaf flat with the rib facing up.  I then run the knife from the middle of the leaf to the end of the stalk to flatten the rib.  This allows the leaf to be bent easily without breaking while wrapping and  makes it edible.  The rib is quite thick and difficult to chew.

For preparation of the Ahi recipe simply saute the strips of stick cabbage in garlic, green onion, salt, and black pepper, for a few minutes, until bright and tender.  I usually throw in an herb that is compatible with ginger miso dressing such as lemon basil, or cilantro.  Since I am already roasting the beans and turnips with  basil I will  use a different herb to add more dimension and to  layer the flavors.   Remove cabbage from pan and plate approximately 2 cups (or however much you like) of sauteed cabbage in center of plate.



Japanese eggplant from our one plant that produces up to ten eggplant a week!

I love growing eggplant because well let’s face it, it’s easy to grow, fun to cook, delicious and versatile.  If I can say a few things about the foods I like to grow is that it has to be somewhat easy.  By easy I don’t mean that it doesn’t require some effort.  By easy I mean, if it likes to grow and live on Kauai without a bunch of accoutrements then I like growing it.  If the plant likes it here, it’s not invasive and it goes to seed then that is a triple win.  I fully support farmers that grow challenging plants organically such as red bell pepper, watermelon and cucumber.  I buy their products, especially Dylan Strong’s produce of Growing Strong Farms.  However, I will most likely not take the extra precautions needed to grow these foods successfully.  It’s just my own personal preference.

Eggplant is an easy grower.  I usually have one plant and it produces well all summer.  At it’s peak I harvest up to 10 eggplant a week. Another abundance problem for just two people.  This year our garden neighbor Kathy gave us the eggplant start that is producing right now.  I give eggplants a 3 foot circumference of growing space.  They produce more if their growth is lateral.  An increase in length in lateral branches gives the eggplant more room to produce fruit.  If an eggplant is growing more vertical instead of lateral the vertical branches can be pruned and the plant can be trained to grow more lateral.

During the initial planting I make a raised bed for the eggplant.  I add compost, bokashi and Char fish (a balanced organic fertilizer made on the Big Island) to a small raised bed.  I plant my eggplant and then add spirulina tea to reduce plant shock.  After a month I add more compost and spirulina tea.  This should be good for the season.  If I notice the eggplant is slowing down I will give it more compost and tea.  It usually does not need to be fed more than once a month. The Japanese eggplant are ready to harvest when they lose a tinge of their shiny luster and are nice and soft.  Somewhere around 6-8 inches long.

To save the seeds for regrowth for the next year, I let some eggplant (about 3) ripen on the plant towards the end of the harvest.  Once the plant has stopped producing and the fruit have faded, turned very hard and essentially become inedible I harvest these remaining eggplant.  I remove the seeds and put them in a vitamix or blender with a cup or so of water.  I pulse the seeds and water for a few seconds.  It sounds counter intuitive but it works! The seeds with more endosperm are heavier and will sink to the bottom.  Seeds not as viable will float to the top.  I remove the heavier seeds from the water and lay them out to dry in a cool but dry area.  Not in the sun! When they become crispy (not easy to bend), usually after 3 weeks, the seeds are ready to plant in a cell tray to begin another life cycle.  I store the remaining seeds in the refrigerator for future use. This technique also works well with tomatoes.






When a trip to the mainland seems far off I remind myself…parsnips do grow on Kauai!  Not only do they grow, they grow big.  I planted them for the first time with no expectations.    Especially since I planted a little late.  I assumed if they were to work at all I probably should have planted them in October.   It seemed like an unusually “cold” February so I took a chance.  Germination was excellent but I was still hesitant.  Sometimes germination will be successful yet the plant will not bear fruit or fruit may be stunted.  This can happen here because the weather is just too warm for foods that are acclimated to a cold season.  A month went by and the stems grew beautifully, up to 12 inches.  Month 2,  the stems were up to 2 feet.  I dug around to see how they were doing.  There were some real winners but many that were small and growing slowly.  Month 3 I harvested the larger parsnips.

Although a secret joy filled my heart with the parsnip harvest, I knew it wasn’t about quantity or beauty.  It was about flavor.   Parsnips are considered a winter vegetable because their flavor is not fully developed until the roots have been exposed to near-freezing temperatures for 2 to 4 weeks in the fall and early winter.  The starch in the parsnip root changes into sugar, resulting in a strong, sweet, unique taste.   There was no kidding myself about winter on Kauai.  The real test would be happening in the kitchen.


For 3 months I anticipated this event.  Cleaning the parsnips in my sink, I felt the magic I frequently feel when cleaning and preparing the food my husband and I  harvest fresh daily.   Similar to the magic I feel when preparing a bed to be planted or saving seeds for replanting or cultivating the soil so roots have enough space to stretch.  I realized I have this feeling frequently because growing food is as integral to life as breathing and sleeping.  To feel the magic of the cycle of life, the beginnings, ends,  the failures,  successes, the secret joys, disappointments, anxieties, hopes, unknowns, faith, trust…to feel all of these emotions from growing a crop of parsnips, arugula, or carrots is to feel the power of a creative intelligence beyond human understanding.  How fortunate it is to feel this power.  How fortunate to experience such moments in the course of a lifetime.

Simplicity for these parsnips would be the best route.  This would give me an indication as to whether or not I would plant them again. My favorite parsnip preparation is to roast them in olive oil, garlic, salt and tarragon.


Roasted Parsnips

8 parsnips cleaned and peeled

4 cloves garlic minced

2 green onion (3 if small)

2 tsp salt

olive oil to coat

1/2 cup minced tarragon

Preheat oven to 350.  Julienne parsnips or cut into coins diagonally.  Toss all ingredients together and roast in oven for 20-30 minutes until tender.

My hopes exceeded my expectations with these “jewels of the garden” as they were commonly referred to for the next 2 months.  Although they didn’t experience the frost necessary to make them sweet, they were sweet enough for me.  Most importantly, the distinct nutty flavor was more pronounced than the sweetness without them being bitter whatsoever.  I think this flavor is what I love most about parsnips rather than the sweetness.

I have tried several other preparations that have been just as delicious as the recipe above.  I have roasted them with carrots, kabocha squash and lamb with a ginger, mint, cumin, coriander pesto that was quite decadent.  Look for the recipe soon!  I have also made baked parsnip chips for a salad garnish.

There are still 2-3 harvests left with which I will make parsnip puree and parsnip, turnip soup.  Stay tuned!

I will be saving an extra long row for parsnips to plant in October!

P.S. Check out the shama bird in background in the top photo by Paul Myers!


I remember a time when my only association with beets were with those that lived in a can. I didn’t pay attention to them until I was in my mid 30’s and a housemate and I joined a CSA. Most weeks we would receive fresh beets in our delivery. The only way I knew to prepare them then was to roast them. Eventually I began eating them raw, using them in soups, and marinating or steaming them. They also make a wonderful “butter”. Fortunately they grow well year round on Kauai reaching maturity in 60 days. They are incredibly sweet, juicy and full of flavor. Now that I have many uses for them I always have a row growing. Beets are a good source of dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Magnesium and Potassium, and a very good source of Folate and Manganese.   I almost always have a batch of these pickled beets on hand.  They are the perfect condiment for salads, fish, meats, and vegetables.

Tarragon Marjoram Pickled Beets

4 Beets

1 1/2 Cups Balsamic Vinegar

4 cloves Garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon Salt

1/4 Cup Tarragon, chopped

1/4 Cup Marjoram, chopped

Slice beets thin on a mandolin or with a knife.  I slice mine as thin as I possibly can if using a knife.  Add to a glass container with a nonreactive lid.  Add vinegar, garlic, salt, tarragon and marjoram.  Refrigerate overnight and then enjoy.  The flavor intensifies the longer it marinates.  Keeps well for 2 weeks in fridge.   Feel free to adjust recipes to your own palette! Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Mexican Tarragon

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This lovely plant has a sweet, subtle, anise flavor. It matches beets perfectly adding depth and originality. The Mexican Tarragon variety I am growing now is more heat tolerant than the French variety requiring full sun and little water. It bushes out and grows two-three feet high providing an abundant supply. The scent and taste of tarragon is disliked by many garden pests, making it useful for intercropping and as a companion plant, to protect its gardenmates. It is also reputed to be a nurse plant, enhancing growth and flavor of companion crops. The dried plant can be burned as an incense and to repel insects.



Marjoram is a perennial herb native to the Mediterranean, North Africa and Southwest Asia.  It was known to the Greeks and Romans as the symbol of happiness.  It belongs to the mint family with other more common herbs – basil, mint, oregano and sage.  It has a unique aroma and flavor that is floral, spicy, with a hint of citrus and pine.

Marjoram was not something that ever registered in my culinary psyche until I worked in a Kosher Mediterranean and Spanish  influenced restaurant in California.  Everything had to be extremely fresh, unprocessed and made from scratch.  Most herbs were ordered fresh, then cleaned and dried for storage if not used immediately.   Marjoram was one of the herbs used regularly and in abundance.  I fell in love with it.  When I returned to Kauai after working for the restaurant, it was one of the first herbs I planted.  This under appreciated herb is now one of my favorites.

I use marjoram in pesto with sage and parsley or chopped fresh and sprinkled over finished dishes.  It is compatible with basil, fennel, rosemary, and thyme.  Marjoram’s flavor intensifies as it dries however, dried, store bought marjoram does not do it justice!  If possible grow some of your own or purchase some fresh at the farmer’s market and dry it yourself.  The unique aroma of fresh marjoram will make a believer of anyone.

Marjoram is easy to grow and low maintenance.   It requires full sun, well drained soil, and a balanced compost.   It can be started from seed in cell trays and then transplanted or rooted from cuttings.  I trim the tops and sides every few days which encourages regrowth for an abundant supply.   If I don’t use it fresh I dry and store it.  I bought both my tarragon and marjoram starts from Robin, owner of Heaven on Earth Organics, at the Kilauea Farmer’s Market Saturday from 9am to 1pm.  Robin is a seed and start guru.  If I only need one of a certain plant I usually buy it from her.  Most other items I grow from seed. Robin is extremely knowledgeable about both farming and cooking.  A real gift to gardeners and Kauai!  She also sells her starts at Hoku Whole Foods in Kapa’a.




daikon final

Daikon have become an acquired taste for me. I grew my first crop as an experiment to see how well they would do and whether or not I would enjoy eating them.  They reached maturity in 30 days and they all reached maturity at the same time.  Some were developing a  bacterial wilt that can be common in brassicas however,  so we harvested them all at the same time.  Twenty daikon is a bit much for two people to eat within a reasonable time frame.  I decided to take the preservation route.  I’m thrilled to say that pickled daikon is now one of my very favorite condiments. The aromatics and vinegar cause the radish to burst with flavor and the chile adds the perfect amount of heat. I use them as a garnish for salads, fish, wraps, or even as a light snack.  Daikon is a good source of Vitamin C, minerals and beneficial digestive enzymes.

Did I mention they are easy to grow?  They also go to seed here which means the seed can be saved and replanted without being purchased from the mainland.

Ginger Pickled Daikon

4 large daikon radish julienned

2 cups rice wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon salt

1/4 c tamari

2 inches minced  ginger

8 cloves garlic

2 hawaiian hot chiles (more or less according to your preference)

Mix all ingredients together and store in a glass jar with a non reactive lid.  Let sit 24 hours before serving.  Flavor intensifies the longer it sits.  Can last several months in refrigerator.




I would like to add that ginger is a highly medicinal and wonderful aromatic used world wide.  Ginger is reported to be a digestive aid, alleviates highblood pressure, treats nausea and morning sickness, and lowers LDL cholesterol. The two cultivars grown in Hawaii, much of it in Hilo and Puna on the Big Island, are Japanese and Chinese.  The predominant cultivar grown and sold in Hawaii is the Chinese variety.  It has larger rhizomes, lighter colored flesh and considered not as pungent as the Japanese.   Buy organic ginger! Conventional ginger is treated with many fungicides and pesticides.

My favorite Kauai ginger farmer is Ben Ferris, owner of Kolo Kai Farms in Kilauea. He is certified organic and his ginger is beautiful.  He also sells sweet potatoes, avocado and a variety of fruits and vegetables.  His goods are available at the Thursday farmer’s market in Kilauea and the Tuesday farmer’s market just passed Hanalei in Waipa.

My favorite ginger/farming website…..Seriously….go to this website for ginger entertainment in Puna!

pickled daikon

Hawaii Grown Hot Chiles

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Pretty Purple Pepper Variety Regenerations Botanical Garden


Sweet peppers are not a highly successful crop on Kauai due to the Solanaceae Fruit Fly.  This pest can destroy most varieties in the Solanaceae family .  This particular fruit fly has 33 hosts it can lay its larvae within thereby making the fruit inedible.  Luckily, Hawaiian hot peppers remain largely unaffected by this fly.   And they are HOT!  I usually use 1-2 peppers for seasoning and this is plenty heat for me.  The pepper plants are high producing and easy to grow.  I just feed it compost at the roots and spirulina tea once a month and it produces dozens of  small 1-1 1/2 inch peppers.  I use them for hot sauce, pickling, chile powder and any dish needing a punch.  One Kauai farmer that grows beautiful sweet peppers, cucumbers, watermelon and a variety of other foods is Dylan Strong of Growing Strong Farms.  He shelters his crops with hand made protective coverings and gives them lots of TLC!  Visit him at the Kapa’a farmer’s market Wednesday’s at 3 pm.  Get there early!

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This Pretty Purple Hot Pepper is growing at the Regenerations Botanical Garden and Food Forest.

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Hawaiian Hot Chile


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Thai Chile Pepper