Liliko‘i is a fruit that is so Hawai‘i. It’s not from here, but has become a part of Maui food culture, from Hawaiian Sun drinks, to the Polli’s margarita, to wrinkling up in your auntie’s fruit bowl every summer. The English name for the flower is passion fruit, but not because of the drama of the fast-climbing vine or the dedication it inspires in its fans. In fact, the story goes, its name is biblically inspired: The five-pointed flower was reminiscent of the five wounds of Christ to some Catholic missionaries in Brazil, and evolved from there.
This Saturday, September 22, the sweet and citrusy fruit will get its due at the first-ever Liliko‘i Festival in Napili during a fun tribute to this unique fruit that has so made itself at home. Though indigenous to South America, the liliko‘i thrives in Hawai‘i and has been widely accepted and celebrated here, even rechristened with a Hawaiian name. The citric taste of liliko‘i is both sweet and sour; the ripened yellows, wrinkled with age, have a ripe sugary taste, and the fruit has a tart tinge fresh from the vine.
From 8am-12pm at the Napili Farmers Market, festival-goers will be treated to food, music, and all things liliko‘i-inspired. “The concept of the liliko‘i festival is that we want to get the community together to enjoy,” said Ana Phillips, an organizer of the event. “There will be around 35 vendors, food trucks, prepared food booths; people can have breakfast and lunch. There are going to be vendors selling clothing for babies, jewelry, crafts, wood carving, kombucha, sunscreen, recyclable products, and fruits and vegetables from farm to table.”
Why liliko‘i? “We need to highlight this beautiful plant!” said Phillips. “It has a gorgeous flower, lush and gorgeous. We wanted to teach people that liliko‘i is a great food with a lot of health benefits – one liliko‘i has the full amount of vitamin C we need in a day. It has a lot of vitamin A, copper, and potassium; it’s loaded with nutrients. It’s a great fruit, and the season goes from July ‘til November, so we have loads of liliko‘i!”
And in fact, the flower is striking, and even a little bizarre looking. With a layered purple skirt and a fringe of alien hairs, the liliko‘i flower is almost as celebrated as the fruit it becomes. A fully matured liliko‘i fruit, in purple and yellow varieties, features a pulpy, delicious mess covering edible black seeds that can be spooned straight or made into a variety of delicious concoctions. From jams and juice, to syrup and butter, and pancakes and margaritas, the liliko‘i has inspired many in the kitchen.
The versatility of the liliko‘i will be featured at the festival in a cooking competition. “For the adults, we have a contest that will have people making liliko‘i ice cream, croissants, donuts, cupcakes, juices – you name it,” said Phillips. “All kinds of products. It’s going to be divided into vegan and vegetarian, with three prizes for each. The prizes for the competition are good, and winners will receive private surf and yoga lessons, paintings, boxes of produce, and more.”
The festival will also feature music, games, and family-friendly fun. “There will be activities for children, like a scavenger hunt and face painting,” said Phillips. “In the scavenger hunt, they are going to learn all about the liliko‘i. By playing, they will learn.”
The festival is free of charge, and will include live entertainment by Uncle George Kahumoku Jr., Moso Ulii, and Uncle Al and the Timmins Sisters. “It’s going to be a lot of fun!” Phillips exclaimed.
The Napili Farmers Market has a strong presence on the West Side. The Saturday market provides Maui’s west-side residents with fresh, locally-grown produce and unique products like Hawaiian honey, jewelry, kombucha, bread, hot sauce, plants, and weekly live music. Each Wednesday and Saturday, the market has from 15-20 vendors slinging everything from bananas to earrings. The popularity of farmers markets around the island speaks to the growing consciousness Maui residents have for food security, community, and health.
“We’ve been there for six years bringing fresh produce to your table,” Phillips said. “The community has been supporting the farmers market. They want fresh food, they want local and organic food, with all the energy and nutrition, so they know where to find good stuff.”
The market is located at Honoapi‘ilani Hwy. and Napilihau St. in Lahaina and is open every Wednesday and Saturday from 8am-12pm. To sign up for the festival’s cooking competition, liliko‘i enthusiasts can call 808-633-5060. ‘
Maui Liliko‘i Festival
Napili Farmers Market
4900 Honoapi‘ilani Hwy.
Saturday, September 22
8am – 12pm