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Big Isle festival celebrates local avocado diversity

By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi

LAST UPDATED: 1:14 a.m. HST, Feb 8, 2011

As legend goes, a man named Seriokai lived with his wife in a forest in Guyana, where avocado, his favorite food, flourished. To ensure he always had an ample supply of the tasty fruit, he spent many hours each week gathering it.

One day when Seriokai was away, a tapir passed his house and saw his wife doing chores. Drawn by her beauty, the tapir wooed her in secret and finally convinced her to run away with him.

The next time Seriokai went to collect avocados, his wife accompanied him with an ax, on the pretense of cutting firewood. As Seriokai climbed down from an avocado tree, she struck him with the ax, leaving him for dead. Then she ran off to the tapir's hiding place, taking Seriokai's basket of avocados with her.

A neighbor came to Seriokai's rescue and tended his wounds. As soon as he could walk, Seriokai armed himself with a bow and arrows and set out to find the tapir and his unfaithful wife, following a trail of avocado trees that had grown from fruit dropped by his wife. At last, he spotted the couple.

Seriokai shot an arrow, which struck the tapir in the eye. Screaming in pain, the beast leaped into the sky, followed by his lover. Seriokai pursued them, and to this day the three can be seen when night falls. Seriokai is the constellation Orion, his wife is the Pleiades and the tapir is the Hyades.

Set for Feb. 19, the Hawaii Avocado Festival celebrates the smooth, buttery fruit that is a rich source of lore as well as fiber, folate, riboflavin, niacin, potassium and vitamins C, E and K.


» Place: Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, 82-6188 Mamalahoa Highway, Captain Cook, Big Island. Look for mile marker 110 about 12 miles south of Kailua-Kona and turn left into the next driveway.

» Time and date: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 19

» Admission: Free

» Call: 936-5233 or e-mail:

» Website:



New this year is the Avocado-Inspired Deliciously Local Dinner, to be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Keauhou Beach Resort, 78-6740 Alii Drive.

It will feature an avocado-themed menu of nine winning dishes from past festivals, including Seared Ahi and Avocado Parfait, Crab and Avocado Macaroni and Cheese and Avocado Cheesecake.

The event will include live music; an exhibit of works by Stephanie Bolton, Shirley Pu Wills and Francene Hart, who created the festival's posters in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively; and a silent auction benefiting Kona Pacific Public Charter School in Kealakekua.

Tickets are $55, available at Divine Goods (324-4663), Kona Pacific Public Charter School (322-4900) and online at Call 334-3340.

Founder Randyl Rupar owned and operated a seven-acre avocado farm in Fallbrook, Calif., for 17 years before he moved to Hawaii. He launched the Avocado Festival on Feb. 17, 2007, to celebrate two occasions — his 58th birthday and the sixth anniversary of the Sanctuary of Mana Kea Gardens, his 15-acre organic farm in Honaunau.

"It was the perfect day to pay tribute to the avocado, which has been my 'meat' for 41 years," said Rupar, a longtime vegetarian. "Avocado is native to Mexico, Guatemala and the West Indies, but farmers in Hawaii are cultivating 200 varieties of them. My wife and I grow Hass, Sharwil and several other kinds at our farm."

The first Avocado Festival drew 300 people to Rupar's farm. "Everyone had a lovely time, but having such a big crowd going up and down the milelong, single-lane road to our farm was a bit daunting," Rupar said. "We were convinced 'the show must go on' — just not at our farm. The Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden has been the perfect partner and venue for this event."

As usual, this year's fifth annual festival will offer samples of local avocados, which can't be exported to the mainland because of the risk of fruit flies. Also planned are hula presentations, live music, healing arts, exhibits on solar energy and sustainable architecture, an eco-fashion show, fruit-tree grafting and growing demonstrations, an avocado recipe contest, a silent auction, a farmers market, children's activities, and arts and crafts booths.

"Bringing the Culture Back to Agriculture" will be the subject of a panel discussion by Ken Love, president of the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers Association; Ted Radovich, assistant specialist in sustainable and organic farming systems at the University of Hawaii at Manoa; and Colehour and Melanie Bondera of Kanalani Ohana Farm in Honaunau.

Honolulu pastry chef Hector Wong will demonstrate how to make a Hawaiian Avocado Potato Pie, and Zero Waste bins will be set up throughout the grounds to encourage the collection of recyclable and compostable materials.

"We hope everyone will enjoy learning about avocados, and will be inspired to make wise choices to ensure the health of our planet and all its inhabitants," Rupar said.

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.


Kailua-Kona resident Terrilee Erickson's cheesecake recipe won top honors in the Best Recipe and People's Choice categories at last year's Hawaii Avocado Festival.



» Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 teaspoon butter
2 teaspoon macadamia nut butter
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

» Filling:
1 small or 1/2 medium ripe avocado
1/3 cup lime juice
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 11-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoon organic sugar

To make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients into 9-inch pie or torte pan. Bake 7 minutes. Let cool.

To make filling: Peel avocado and soak in lime juice. Set aside.

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add condensed milk and sour cream. Continue mixing until well incorporated. Mash avocado in lime juice until smooth. Add cream cheese mixture and continue mixing until fluffy. Pour into crust and chill 2 hours.

Garnish with more avocado slices soaked in lime juice and rolled in organic sugar, or spread with Kea Pua Iki Avocado Butter (sold at South Kona Green Market, Sundays behind Choice Mart, 82-6066 Mamalahoa Highway in Captain Cook).

Nutritional information unavailable.

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