Wasting not, wanting not: Gleaners on call

Would you believe a fruit tree laden with ripened and ripening fruit, and flowers for the next crop — at the same time? I put my trusty Canon to use to rely on the “one picture is worth …” adage to back up an affirmative answer.

This anomaly was remarked on recently by Kalli while the first round of ready fruits was being harvested by her with team member Heather from the Village Harvest program.

My starfruit (which I prefer to call star apple) tree is, in my estimation, amazing. Seeing its umbrella-shaped canopy, a passerby might not know that it is a mother tree, hung with globes of flanged fruits that can be 6-7 inches in length and about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. These are the ones I call my Cadillac star apples.

Some friends and acquaintances are not fond of star apples, but a few have changed their minds after sampling the ones grown in our garden. The particular variety I happened to get is superior in taste and texture.

Whenever I hold forth on the merits of my tree, I worry that I might have a case such as “The Little Prince” with his very own rose. Then I remember that my judgment has been underlined by other fruit lovers who have sampled its bounty.

This particular tree came from an Arbor Day giveaway. Around 1993, I triumphantly bore home three saplings from that event, including one labeled “Carambola/Star Apple.”

Of the two others, the fragrant “ten-cent flower” tree, the puakenikeni, has also grown beautifully, but I lost my ohia lehua. Two successful trees out of three careful plantings: not bad.

As home gardeners know, it’s particularly satisfying to be able to enjoy eating and sharing produce one has grown. Gardening is good exercise and calming. For me as a writer, it gives balance to my day, offsetting hours spent at the keyboard, reading manuscript copy, thinking in a focused manner and editing.

With a wheelbarrow at hand stacked with cartons, on a small stepladder I can glean enough fruit to enjoy fresh and prepare in numerous ways.

Even being creative, it’s hard to keep up with the amount of fruit that is produced. Therefore, during star apple seasons (note the plural, because of two a year) we share with neighbors and friends, our doctor’s and dentist’s offices, credit union staff, and the Kauai Food Bank, not to mention musicians at orchestra rehearsals, book club members, the Kapaa Library as giveaway fruits for patrons, and neighborhood people just strolling by.

A friend last week revealed a new way he’d found to enjoy one of our star apples. After removing the outer ribs, he chopped and folded small chunks into orange sherbet as a yummy, cooling dessert. You can bet I’m going to give this a try.

My husband and my friend Joy like chilled slices dipped in Li Hing Mui powder as a snack or appetizer. And here, I share with you my own star apple crisp recipe on the chance you’re also harvesting or have acquired a basket of these rich-in-Vitamin C fruits.

My tree continues to grow and the yield is increasing. It was with gladness this year that I learned about Village Harvest, the helpful program that’s come about for home fruit gleaning through a partnership between Malama Kauai in Kilauea and CTAHR’s (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources) Kauai Master Gardener Program.

If you have more fruit of any variety than you can use and share and wish to prevent waste, consider calling 828-0685, ext. 20, or e-mail Village Harvest@malamakauai.org to schedule a picking. We were impressed by our pickers — their speed and respectful attitude while on our property.

We were further impressed to promptly receive a hand-addressed thank-you note for our donation of several big boxes of fruit that went to “those who need it most,” whom I understand are the Food Bank and several charter school cafeterias for this round.

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Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live with books, music and birds in Wailua Homesteads. Her books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon. For more information, go to www.kauaiweddingsandbooks.com

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