From jackfruit to cherimoya, it’s a paradise of tropical fruit

'Like the Garden of Eden'

Lilly Boerner, of Ono Organic Farms, invites visitors to her huge Hawaiian fruit farm located near Hana, Maui.
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Lilly Boerner, of Ono Organic Farms, invites visitors to her huge Hawaiian fruit farm located near Hana, Maui.

At the end of Hana’s heavenly highway, Lilly Boerner found her paradise.

All around her home grows luscious tropical fruit, from avocado and cherimoya to papaya and rambutan. It’s not only her family’s own private Eden, but its livelihood.

“Today, we have a family business,” said Boerner, a Sacramento native. “Two of our five children live on the land with their families. They’ve grown up with the lifestyle of Hawaii. It makes it fun.”

Ono Organic Farms, the largest organic fruit farm on Maui, stretches over more than 365 acres near Kipahula, 10 miles south of Hana. Totally off the power grid, it supplies fresh tropical fruit, coffee and chocolate to major stores such as Whole Foods as well as many island markets.

The challenge, according to Chuck Boerner, Lilly’s husband, is shipping from a location at the end of a road infamous for its hundreds of hairpin turns and scores of one-lane bridges.

In the shadow of the 10,000-foot Haleakala volcano, the Boerners grow a cornucopia of tropical delights, including 100-plus varieties of exotic fruit. Thousands of fruit trees, big and small, cover their property.

“This was all cattle pasture,” explained Lilly, who has lived there 45 years. “Everything except the giant mangoes; they were the only trees. Everything else we planted. It’s amazing how fast things grow in this climate.”

The mangoes tower more than 100 feet tall on the sloped hillside on the southeast side of Maui. About 1,800 banana trees spell out their farm’s name – Ono – which means “good” or “delicious.”

As an introduction to tropical fruit, their variety is as dazzling as their ocean view. For example, the Boerners grow 20 kinds of avocado and eight banana varieties such as apple, ice cream, Cuban red and blue. In addition to selling fresh fruit, Lilly makes jams and jellies, available for sale online.

Visitors are welcome to take part in weekly tasting tours. Among the exotic treats are guavas, starfruit, sweetsops, sapotes and every imaginable shade of citrus.

“We may have two days of 65 degrees,” Lilly explained. “Most of the year, we’re in the low 70s to high 80s. Anything tropical, we can grow.”

That includes chocolate and coffee. On large bushes, fat orange cacao pods hold delicious chocolate beans. On paths winding through the property, shiny red coffee berries await pickers.

The biggest crop (size wise) is the mammoth jackfruit, strange-looking armored behemoths that are now making a splash on the mainland as a meat substitute as well as distinctive flavoring. Increasingly trendy, jackfruit has been hailed as the “Fruit of 2017.”

“Most of them are 20 to 30 pounds,” said Hudson Meek, an intern and tour guide at Ono Farms. “The world record is 150 pounds. The biggest one I’ve picked was 60 pounds.

“I practically live on jackfruit,” he added. “It’s my favorite because you can do so much with it. When it’s green, it’s like tofu. When it’s ripe, it’s really sweet and delicious. Even the seeds are edible. You can roast them and grind them into hummus.”

Preparing jackfruit for consumption isn’t easy. Don’t do it indoors. Spread lots of newspaper to catch the latexlike sap. Wear old clothes, gloves and eye protection.

Meek demonstrated his jackfruit technique, using a large serrated knife. He sprayed the knife with cooking spray between each cut; otherwise, it gets stuck in place.

Ripe jackfruit has an unusual flavor very similar to Juicy Fruit gum; brown spots on that armored green rind indicate ripeness and full maturity. The yellow flesh has a consistency like pineapple. Underripe, the flesh is still white and starchy but stringy. When boiled, it becomes tender and pulls apart like pork. It also absorbs any flavorings, which makes it perfect for vegetarian barbecue or Southwest cuisine.

Jackfruit looks similar to another tropical giant – durian. Known as the “king of fruit,” durian is very popular in Southeast Asian cuisine. Unlike the pleasant jackfruit, durian smells like spoiled garlic and tastes like sweet roasted garlic.

“We used to ship them to the mainland, but the post office didn’t like it,” Lilly said.

Every fruit has a story and its own fans. Cherimoya, the custard apple, offers mango-scented white flesh that Mark Twain called “the most delicious fruit known to men.” Covered with long red hairs, rambutan (a lychee cousin) hide jellylike sweet nuggets inside.

Passion fruit hangs like green tennis balls from vines around the tasting shed. “That’s my favorite because it’s my namesake,” Lilly said. “Its Hawaiian name is lilikoi, and it makes great jelly.”

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

Ono Organic Farms

Ono Organic Farms, the largest organic fruit farm on Maui, offers a wide variety of its products for shipment to the mainland including jams, jellies, coffee and roasted chocolate beans.

Contact: HC 1 Box 149, Hana, HI 96713;, 808-248-7779


Hana fruit salad

Serves 6 to 8

Substitute or add other tropical fruit as desired to this colorful salad. Adapted from “Island Cooks” (Island Heritage)

2 large ripe papayas, peeled and sliced

2 ripe avocados, peeled and sliced

6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced

1 small purple onion, sliced into thin rings

1 head Boston or Manoa lettuce, leaves separated and washed

For dressing:

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

¼ teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Juice of ½ lemon

1 clove garlic, pressed

5 tablespoons tarragon vinegar

½ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 coddled egg (boil 1 minute), lightly beaten

½ cup light cream

Prepare fruit. Arrange bed of lettuce leaves on a large platter. Arrange fruit and sliced red onion over lettuce.

Make dressing: In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine all remaining ingredients. Shake vigorously. Just before serving, pour dressing over sliced fruit and vegetables. Serve.

Thai fruit salsa

Makes about 4 cups

Serve this colorful salsa with grilled fish.

Adapted from “Sheila Lukins All Around the World Cookbook” (Workman, 1994)

1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

3 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 to 2 teaspoons minced jalapeño

5 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except fresh bail. Refrigerate, covered, up to 2 hour. Just before serving, toss with fresh basil.

Ono Farms party cheese

Lilly Boerner of Ono Farms in Maui offered this family favorite appetizer. “This takes five minutes to make,” Lilly says. “It’s a real hit.”

1 log of soft goat milk cheese such as chevre

1 jar (8 ounces) Ono Farms organic lilikoi jelly

1/2 cup Ono organic hot chili pepper jelly

Pour lilikoi jelly over cheese log. Cover the jelly with a layer of hot pepper jelly. Chill until ready to serve. Serve with good crackers.

Ono Farms home-made chocolate

Lilly Boerner of Ono Farms in Maui shared her recipe for homemade rustic fresh chocolate, using the farms’ roasted chocolate beans. She also uses organic sugar and coconut oil.

Recipe adapted from Ono Farms

100 roasted chocolate beans

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup coconut oil

Take 100 roasted Ono Organic roasted chocolate beans. Rub the skin off the beans by placing them in a ziplocked bag and seal. Crush the beans with a rolling pin. Place the crumbled beans on a cookie sheet. Blow the parchment flakes – the skins from the beans – off the chocolate nibs (the inside good part).

Note: Do this last part outside because those little flakes fly everywhere. A hand-held hair dryer can be used to blow off the flakes. Wear eye protection.

Place the chocolate nibs in a coffee mill and grind to a fine powder. (This can take a few minutes.)Transfer powder in food processor. Add 1 cup powdered sugar. Blend.

Add the vanilla and coconut oil. Blend all together until creamy and smooth, about 5 minutes.

Pour into a shallow dish and put into the refrigerator to chill. When hard, break into pieces and serve. “Everyone will love them,” Lilly says.

Jackfruit custard

Serves 4

This recipe is adapted from a popular southern Indian dessert.

Adapted from

One 20-ounce can of ripe jackfruit packed in syrup, drained, or 1 cup fresh ripe jackfruit

One 14-ounce can coconut milk

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground cardamom

Drain, rinse and chop canned jackfruit. If using fresh, chop jackfruit, removing any seeds or white filaments. In a medium saucepan, combine jackfruit, coconut milk and brown sugar. Bring to simmer. Over medium-low heat and stirring occasionally, simmer gently until jackfruit is tender and custard starts to thicken, about 40 minutes. In last 5 minutes, add cardamom. Can be served warm or chilled.


papaya smoothie

Serves 2

1 medium ripe papaya

1 large ripe cherimoya

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup crushed ice or 1 frozen banana

Peel and seed papaya and cherimoya. Coarsely chop and add to blender; purée. Add honey; pulse blender a few times. Add crushed ice or frozen banana, peeled and chopped. Blend until smooth. (If too thick, add a little milk, almond or coconut milk and blend.)

Papaya seed dressing

Makes about 3 cups

What to do with all those papaya seeds? This sweet dressing is excellent on tropical fruit salads or fresh greens of all kinds.

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 cup tarragon vinegar

1 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup minced onion

3 tablespoons papaya seeds

In a food processor, blend sugar, salt, dry mustard and vinegar until smooth. With motor running, add oil in a steady stream and blend until emulsified. Add minced onion and papaya seeds. Pulse food processor to blend, just until papaya seeds look like coarsely ground pepper.

In a covered jar, this dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Jackfruit, black bean and mango burritos

Serves 4

This recipe features green jackfruit as a meat substitute. Either use canned green jackfruit packed in brine or water (not syrup) or boiled fresh green jackfruit.

Adapted from The Washington Post

For the jackfruit:

One 20-ounce can plain green jackfruit in brine or water or 2 cups cubed prepared fresh jackfruit

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)

For the beans:

1 1/2 cups cooked or no-salt-added canned black beans (from one 15-ounce can), drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed

For assembly:

4 extra-large (burrito-size) flour tortillas

1 cup diced mango (about 1 small mango)

12 sour pickle slices

1 medium tomato, cored and cut into wedges

12 sprigs cilantro

For the jackfruit: Drain and rinse it, then wrap it in paper towels and squeeze to remove as much moisture as possible. Cut the jackfruit into 1/2-inch pieces.

(If using fresh jackfruit, cut white flesh into cubes and boil until tender; about 40 minutes.)

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and starting to lightly brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the jackfruit, paprika, allspice, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper, if using; cook, stirring frequently, until the spices start to become fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the lime juice, water and sugar, if using; partially cover and cook until the liquid is almost completely evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for an additional minute or two, stirring, until the jackfruit starts to brown on some edges. Taste, and add more salt, as needed. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

For the beans: Combine the beans, orange juice and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook just until warmed through, a few minutes. Taste, and add more salt, as needed. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

When ready to assemble, briefly warm the tortillas in a large, dry skillet by heating both sides for a few seconds over medium heat, or microwave them for about 10 seconds on high, then wrap them in aluminum foil to keep warm.

Lay one tortilla on a work surface. Spread one-quarter of the jackfruit mixture across the middle, leaving an inch or two margin at either end, then top with one-quarter of the beans, including some of their liquid, one-quarter of the mango, and a few pickle slices, tomato wedges and cilantro sprigs. Roll one side of the tortilla over the filling, fold over the sides and continue rolling to form a burrito.

Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Serve warm.

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