The state of Hawaii, a series of islands located in the central Pacific Ocean, is especially suited for those crops that thrive in tropical climates. Many foods grown on the mainland are also grown in Hawaii. But, there are specific crops that do better in Hawaii than in most mainland states. Not all of Hawaii’s successfully grown commercial food crops would be appropriate for the home gardener, primarily due to the amount of processing required after harvesting.
Sugar, coffee, rice and macadamia nuts are familiar commercial crops for Hawaii, yet may not be suitable for the Hawaiian home gardener. Hawaii sugar production reached its peak around 1933 and by the early 1990s many sugar plantations began closing down. Coffee was first introduced to the islands in the early 1800s and today Hawaii is the only state in the union to grow coffee commercially. In 1907 rice was Hawaii’s second largest commercial crop and today the island’s macadamia nut industry ranks second largest in the world.
Pineapples, papaya, bananas and mangoes are tropical fruits that can be grown in Hawaii. The pineapple was first introduced to the islands around 1813. The pineapple industry began in 1885, and eventually evolved into Del Monte Fresh Produce (Hawaii) Inc. The pineapple can also be easily grown by the home gardener. Another fruit tree that can be grown in Hawaii is the water loving avocado tree. Another name for the avocado tree is the “Alligator Pear”, which might explain why some islanders once referred to the tree as a pear, instead of an avocado, tree.
Yams may look and taste similar to the sweet potato, yet they belong to an entire different family and are difficult to grow in the mainland. The yam is a tropical plant that grows well in Hawaii, as it needs to be kept above 68 degrees F and grown where there is no danger of frost. Other food crops that can be grown in Hawaii include beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, kai choy, lettuce, onion, peas, pepper, potato, soybean, squash, sweet corn, sweet potato, taro, tomato and watercress.