Tasting Hawaii

Molokai backyard vegetable gardens

Backyard garden a great way to fight back in struggling economy

You may have noticed that more and more Molokai residents have declared war on the high cost of living here. They are planting seeds in their own backyard vegetable gardens to provide for their families.

We are actually reliving history. If we look back to 1917, food shortages caused rioting in New York City. President Woodrow Wilson called on Americans to grow their own food and thus the first “War Gardens” were born. During WW II, the name was changed to “Victory Gardens.” People in all areas of the U.S., rural and urban alike, worked the soil to raise food for their families, friends and neighbors, to help the war effort and enable more supplies to be shipped to our troops around the world. Nearly 20 million Americans produced up to 40 percent of all that was consumed in this wartime effort.

Ohio Historical Society, 1917

Our strong economy of the 1980s and 1990s is gone, and who knows how long it will take for this country to get back on its feet. We all know that energy prices are out of site, and shipping costs to the Hawaiian islands keep going up. The cost of living has sky rocketed and has put a tremendous strain on many households. This only means that we need to be more self-sufficient, grow our own food to help feed our families and perhaps generate a little extra income by selling our products to others.

Working in the garden lowers the cost of providing your family with healthy, organic vegetables. It is a wholesome activity for the family, and instills in children an understanding of the natural cycles of growth, which provide lessons of lifelong value.

I decided to grow parsley after seeing how much
it cost for one little bunch at Misaki's. Very easy to grow,
and if you just cut the stems the plant will keep making more.

While it may seem like a lot of work to get the garden started, it doesn’t have to be. Start with just a large pot or small plot and enlarge the garden as time and inspiration allow. Remember, the bulk of the work, establishing the beds, only has to be done once.

Once in place, nutrients can be added by “top dressing,” and will not require heavy digging or strenuous work. A well-planned and prepared garden will provide many years of productivity with relatively minimal routine maintenance. I know it must be psychological, but food from my vegetable garden always tastes better than store bought.

Thank goodness we have Hikiola in Ho’olehua, they have everything you need to get your backyard garden going. Many people would like to be growing more of their own food, but don’t know where or how to start. Check out this website for tips on how to successfully begin gardening: http://agroforestry.net/pubs/Hawaii_Homegrown_Start-Up_Guide.pdf.

Chef James Temple is a retired chef, cookbook author, food blogger, golfer and family cook living on Molokai. He has a degree from the San Francisco Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu Program. His first job as a professional cook was at Hotel Molokai. Temple also opened Mango Mart Deli, managed the Lanikeha Commercial Kitchen and operated a specialty food store in Kaunakakai, Bamboo Pantry, for four years.

Over time, Temple learned a lot about the people of Molokai. “Cooking on Molokai is like living and cooking in any small town, except we are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You learn to work with what you can get as far as food and many other things,” says Temple.

“It is my hope to share our food experiences here in the ‘Tasting Hawaii,'” said Temple. “Mahalo.”
Temple’s food columns can be found at www.tastinghawaii.com.

Spam musubi From Rawlins’ Chevron

There’s something about eating out of a gas station that doesn’t sit well with me but it seems that Rawlins’ Chevron, one of two gas stations on Molokai, has managed to carve out a niche for itself here, with hot and cold snacks, sundries and toiletries.

I have always heard that the Spam musubi was pretty good, so after filling up my truck with $5.12 a gallon gas, I had just enough money left for Spam musubi. It was tucked away in a hot box near the cash register.

I took a couple home and made a plate out of it with a jar of sweet pickled Maui onions and ogo from Friendly Market. I have to say that I have had better local Spam musubi up with my buddies at Ironwood after a game of golf, but Rawlins’ musubi wasn’t bad.

I gave a bite to my little dog Maka, he liked it too. Frying the Spam in soy sauce, sugar and rice wine helps a lot. Here’s my recipe for Spam musubi

Hawaiian Spam Musubi


3 cups uncooked Japanese medium-grain sushi rice
4 cups water
5 sheets of Nori (roasted-seaweed found in the Asian section of your grocery store)
1 (12-ounce) can Spam Luncheon Meat
Furikaki (Japanese condiment)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup rice wine (mirin)


Wash rice, stirring with your hand, until water runs clear. Place rice in a saucepan with water; soak 30 minutes. Drain rice in colander and transfer to a heavy pot or rice cooker; add 4 cups water. If you don’t have a rice cooker, place rice and water into a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; bring just to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and leave pan, covered, for 15 additional minutes.

Cut nori in half widthwise. Place cut nori in a resealable plastic bag to keep from exposing the nori to air (exposing the nori to air will make it tough and hard to eat).

Cut Spam into 8 rectangular slices approximately 1/4-inch thick. In a large ungreased frying pan over medium heat (Spam has plenty of grease to keep it from sticking), fry slices until brown and slightly crispy. remove from heat, drain on paper towels, and set aside.

In a small saucepan over high heat, add soy sauce, sugar, and rice wine; bring just to a boil, then remove from heat. Add fried Spam slices to soy sauce mixture, turning them to coat with the sauce; let spam slices sit in marinade until ready to use.

In a small bowl, add some water to use as a sealer for the ends of the nori wrapper; set aside.

Using a Spam Musubi Press, place a piece of nori on a plate. Position press on top of the nori so the length of the press is in the middle of the nori (widthwise). The press and the width of the nori should fit exactly the length of a slice of Spam. (Note: If you don’t have a musubi maker, you can use the empty Spam can by opening both sides, creating a musubi mold.)

Spread approximately 1/4 cup cooked rice across the bottom of the musubi maker, on top of the nori.

Press rice down with flat part of the press to compact the rice until it is 1/4-inch thick (add more rice if necessary). Sprinkle rice with Furikaki.

Place a slice of Spam on top of the rice (it should cover most of the length of the musubi maker), sprinkle Spam with more Furikaki.

Cover with an additional 1/4 cup cooked rice; press until 1/4-inch thick.

Remove the musubi from the press by pushing the whole stack down (with the flat part of the press) while lifting off the press.

Fold one end of nori over the musubi and press lightly onto the rice. Wet the remaining end slightly with water, then wrap over musubi and other piece of nori; press down on the other end. cut log into 4 pieces.

Repeat with the other 7 Spam slices, making sure to rinse off musubi maker after each use to prevent if from getting too sticky. Do not refrigerate musubi, as they will get dry and rubbery. Makes 32 musubi rolls.