Blue sky, bright sunshine greeted me as I drove along highway 56 on the north shore of this island. Banana Joe’s, a little fruit stand, yellow with green trim, looked cheerful, with red poinsettias growing near the entrance. But the parking lot was empty. I wondered if it were even open.
Although this place is renowned for its tropical fruit smoothies, I discovered it also offers an array of local fruit and vegetables, locally-made food and colorful T-shirts. Shelves, built around the perimeter, displayed pineapple, bananas, papayas, guavas and mangos. I did not recognize some of the more exotic fruits. The clerk, a patient woman named Lupika, answered my questions as I pointed to one fruit after another and asked, “What is this? How does it taste? How do you serve it?” She identified atemoya, breadfruit, rambutan, jakfruit, lychee, longan, caimito, canistel, sapodilla, mammey sapote, passionfruit, and starfruit.
I also explored the locally-made food, selecting two types of salsa – a traditional tomato version and one made with pineapple. I got two chocolate bars – one flavored with mint and the other with hot pepper. Macadamia Nut Crackers, Pumpkin Seed Dip and Sunflower Seed Dip tempted me. This was a cash-only operation and I only had $40. I decided to spend my money on salsa and chocolate bars, avocados and several rambutan. Rambutan, with its red spiked skin, looked exotic. I wondered how it would taste.
As I piled my tropical goodies on the counter, I was surprised to see a basket filled with culinary lavender. “Is there a lavender farm here on Kauai?” I asked.
With a bright smile, Lupika said, “That lavender comes from my garden. I grow it in pots and it does very well.” She explained her daughter got married last year. She wanted to use lavender buds for the traditional rice toss at her wedding and ordered them from a grower on Maui. That gave Lupika the idea to grow lavender to sell at Banana Joe’s. As far as she knows, Lupika is the only lavender grower on Kauai. Each small bag of buds sells for $3. Lupika, a painter, also creates the colorful T-shirts at Banana Joe’s.
Tourists began to fill up the little store. As I paid Lupika for my food treats, I could hear the blender in the background. Joe, who has owned this fruit stand since 1986, was in a small kitchen creating Pineapple Frosties, one of his famous fruit refreshments. I was sorry I had spent all my cash and would have to leave without tasting one of his masterpieces.