On my many trips to Maui, I always find myself exploring new places and experiencing new things. One may think you would quickly run out of things to do on an island so small, but that could not be further from the truth. I, without a doubt, find myself at the airport bound for Los Angeles listing and dreaming about all the things that I did not have time to do.
On my most recent trip, a friend and I decided to visit Iao Valley for the first time. I had heard of its beauty and wanted to see for myself. We arrived at the park, paid our $5 entry and read some signs about what the park offered. While the landscape was breathtaking, my friend and I were a bit disappointed at how short and small the trails were and how paved they were….Part of it almost looked like a garden planted at a museum (which are quite beautiful, but not what we were looking for). We took the short walk up to view the needle. It was a breathtaking day with the clearest of blue skies touched ever so slightly with perfect puffs of little white clouds.
While walking along another short trail, we noticed an area with a sign posted saying something along the lines of “keep out” which was scribbled with writing by locals who had written things completely opposite to what the sign said. We could clearly see a trail behind the sign, so the two of us rule breakers ignored the sign and followed the trail. We were not alone, as we saw and heard the voices of many locals and other tourists. What a good decision this turned out to be; we wandered through a gorgeously lush jungle of sorts along Iao stream. There were several places one could stop if they wanted, for a picnic and dip in the cold and babbling stream.
While we were walking through the forest, I began to notice a familiar, intoxicating smell. It didn’t come to me at first, but I stopped and started to look around. Then I noticed the trees. Iao Valley is almost like one, giant guava forest. Everywhere I seemed to look I saw trees with ripening and baby guavas. Then I looked down and noticed that the they were littered in the bushes, squished on the trail and even in the stream itself.
Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows how much I delight in fruit and delight even more in picking and foraging for my own fruit. It brings me a kind of calm, peace and fulfillment that is hard to describe. Instantly beaming with happiness, I began immediately looking for ripe guava to pick from the trees and looking for untarnished ripe guava on the ground. I found and ate about 4 or 5 outright and they were the most delicious strawberry guava I had ever tasted. I split them open and sucked out their insides, seeds and all. Brandon was a little skeptical of them. He lives in New York and works for a prominent fashion designer and while he is no stranger to hiking, he is not accustomed to eating strange fruits he does not recognize. I convinced him to try one, but I could tell he did not exactly share my enthusiasm. That’s okay though as he was enthralled with other surrounding beauty and I believe we were both enjoying ourselves a great deal, taking different pleasures in different things.
After eating my fill of guavas, I started to collect some to take home with us. Once I had collected as many as my tiger backpack (aptly named Richard Parker) could fit, we rested our feet in the water of the stream and relaxed a bit, watching tourists and locals hike by, some of whom stopped to share our spot. On our way out of the valley, we came upon this petroglyph:
We discovered this to be the “rainbow man” that means keeper of the aina (land). Iao Valley is a sacred place; serving as both an ali’i burial ground and a former battlefield. Coming and experiencing this ancient place was a true gift that I will never forget.
Once back at the house, my friend suggested I cook or bake something with the guavas I had collected. I ended up eating them as I hadn’t quite collected enough to make guava jam or paste with. Plus, my home on Maui is not currently equipped with a good sieve or food mill like I have here in Los Angeles, so it probably would have been quite the challenge, getting out all of those seeds. I still wanted to make something guava, in honor of our time there though. And every time I visit, I mail myself back a big flat rate box of local jams, jellies, lotions and the like. I carry-on my bags and those dang rules prevent me from taking my bigger jars on board. Sending a medium flat rate box is cheaper than checking a bag anyway. Plus they now come with free tracking and up to $50 free postal insurance, so I feel like I have a better chance with the USPS than with the airline. This time around I made sure to send plenty of Maui made guava jam, so I’d be able to make a sweet treat once back in LA, reminding me of my lovely adventure in Iao Valley.
I ultimately decided on guava bread, which truth be told is more like a cake than bread. But this is the story with banana bread and muffins, so it’s okay right? I am also happy to report that those of you who live above a certain latitude will be able to make this bread as it contains guava preserves and no fresh guava. I know many of the ingredients I have been using lately are likely impossible to find for some of you and for that, I apologize. We are lucky enough to have fresh guavas here in Los Angeles, but they are generally the less flavorful, green skinned, white flesh variety which are not nearly as good as strawberry guavas.
2 1/2 c unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Hawaiian sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c heaping unbleached cane sugar
3 tsp Ener-G egg replacer, dry
3/4 c coconut oil, melted
2 c guava jam, heated for 20-30 seconds to make it a bit more pliable. I used this brand.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 or 10″ loaf pan or a mini loaf tray. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a big mixing bowl. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the melted coconut oil and the guava jam. Mix everything together being careful not to over-mix. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan or mini loaf pan and bake for around 60-70 minutes for a large loaf. Mini loaves will take less time, so make sure to keep an eye on the minis if you decide to go that route. Do a toothpick test for doneness around 60 min. If the loaf isn’t cooked through yet, bake for an additional 5- 10 minutes, checking on progress to make sure the loaf doesn’t burn. This bread is deliciously moist and sweet, with a strong guava flavor.