VOICES: Going from Koke‘e picking bliss to plum wine

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Freah plum wine that should sit in a cool area for a year before consumption can be executed.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    If you discover plums up at Koke‘i, be sure to know what you are picking and what you will make before you harvest your 5lbs. Pick the green plums for wine, and the ripe plums pickle plum.

“Cheehoo,” it’s plum picking season on Kaua‘i, which started July, behind the state park in Koke‘e.

Riding up past Koke‘e before Kalalau lookout, there were choke plums on the side of the road and choke potholes. I stopped my car when I saw a local uncle. I asked him if what I was looking at were plums. He said “yes.”

That ‘ohana was so nice, they gave my son a tool to pick some plums and they talked story with us. It rained, yet the feeling of picking up plums was true happiness.

Our ‘ohana tradition continued, even with my family being far away. I could share this true bliss with my keiki.

According to the state, you can only pick five pounds and you must get a harvest permit at the state park’s headquarters before picking. Also, note that the green plums can’t be consumed, they are bitter (possible stomach ache if consumed), but can be fermented up to a year for plum wine. The ripe ones are edible and ready to be made into some tasty treats.

The next day, on July 4, I headed to my best friend’s house to make a new memory. We were going to make plum wine. Of course, like anyone with a smartphone, I You-Tubed “How to make plum wine.”

I brought the container, sugar (better if rock sugar), and vodka (must be over 35% alcohol by volume).

First, we picked out the stems and washed the plums. Then we washed the container before using it. The Youtuber wiped the inside of the container with Japanese vodka, so the plums don’t get moldy. Next, a handful of plums went into the container.

Top it with some sugar or rock sugar, it will be a layered effect. Repeat until you reach the top of the container or to your desired height.

Finally, add your vodka until it reaches the top of your last plum layer. Now, you set it and forget it for a year. That’s right, it’s best after a year of sitting in a cool room or area of your hale.

But, what really happened? I didn’t have enough vodka, so my best friend Morgan Callejo found some Barardi laying around her hale, and yes we did mix it in there. And don’t judge me, but I also had to add some Ling Hing powder. That’s just a local girl in me.

Now, I have an excuse to visit my hanai ‘ohana one year from now. Yes, I am moving, and this plum picking was the best memory we could create together. When the plums ripen maybe we will try to make some ume or pickled plum.

What will you make with your plums?


Stephanie Shinno, reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

  1. I saw a Vampire once July 11, 2021 9:59 am Reply

    They sell books on this too. I was in high school last time I was in Kokee. Kapaa high school. Good for the county or state to hype out Kokee.

  2. I saw a Vampire once July 11, 2021 10:07 am Reply

    Kapa’a high school and class of 1996. That is me the Vampire. I call myself this because I saw a tv show once. Turned on the tv and there it was. I think it was “Once Bitten”, 1985 movie. Jim Carey

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