Farm-to-Table Tomatoes Hawaiian-Style

We were on a farm-to-table tour on the Big Island of Hawaii. The earthy freshness of just-picked tomatoes filled the air.

42-5_mozzarella_tomato_basil_bites_02“We’re going for quality,” said Richard Ha, owner of Hamakua Springs Country Farms. He is the second generation of a three-generation family farm in Hilo. “Our tomatoes are grown for taste. Others create a tomato with a long shelf life but they have no natural quality, no real flavor. Ours are sweet and ripe in the stores.”

Richard explained that Hawaiian farmers have to be clever to do what they do because the state uses oil for more than 70 percent of its electricity, which is costly. Hawaiian food producers are working toward island sustainability.

“We’re looking at geothermal, tapping the energy of the volcanoes. If we can do that, we’ll all do better,” Richard said. “We have to be on the leading edge otherwise we’re always playing catchup.”

The price of gas makes it difficult for some of his people to get to work. Richard can’t afford to increase their wages so he reduces their living expenses instead. He leases them land, moves them closer, and turns them into farmers, too. Richard believes that the more farmers there are, the more variety of crops there will be, and the more likely that everyone will be able to afford food.

Row after perfect row of stringed tomato plants hung on a slant, leaning into the sun. This maximized-exposure leads to faster production time and increased harvest.

“Common sense, ya”, Richard said. “Plus our pickers are not that tall. The lean makes it easier for them to reach.”

This quick, delicious, and healthy hors d’oeuvre, or snack, can be easily made in an RV. It is best at this time of the year, when naturally sweet cherry tomatoes and leafy basil are available, fresh out of the garden.



Mozzarella Tomato Basil Bites

16 large fresh basil leaves
16 mini cherry tomatoes
16 mini bocconcini (fresh mozzarella balls)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
coarse freshly-ground multi-color peppercorns
coarse sea salt


Wrap a basil leaf around each cherry tomato and secure with a frilly toothpick. Push a mini bocconcini on the end of the toothpick against the cherry tomato.
Arrange the bocconcini and tomato skewers side by side in a shallow, flat bottom bowl.
Drizzle the olive oil over the cheese and tomatoes.
Sprinkle generously with coarsely ground pepper and sea salt. Cover with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving to blend the flavours.
These little hors d’oeuvres are best served in the olive oil marinade so they can be rolled in the olive oil one more time before eating

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