Between May 11-22, KHON2’s Wake Up 2day and Living808 are airing a special series from the Island of Hawaii. Kathy Muneno went exploring and found the joys of a staycation on Hawaii’s largest island.
Monday’s visit starts on the east side of Hawaii Island at the country’s first-ever commercial vanilla farm.
Hawaiian Vanilla Co. is about three miles from the highway along the Hamakua Coast on the slopes of Mauna Kea.
Owner Jim Reddekopp started the farm roughly 20 years ago.
“Our goal was really just to raise our children. Vanilla was a byproduct of that thought of wanting to raise them in a rural environment. We lived on Oahu and just wanted to come out here and start something so 20 years later here we are and my kids are older now. It’s been a great story,” he told Wake Up 2day.
But it wasn’t an easy process. Vanilla isn’t easy to grow.
“It is an orchid. It does bloom for one day and each each flower is individually hand-pollinated. It’s been a learning process. I learned from Tom Kadooka about 20 years ago and Tom was my mentor, and then I traveled throughout the world, brought consultants in and now I’m a consultant to other growers around the world as well.”
The company now turns the beans into more than 80 vanilla-based products.
“My wife was in fashion design. She loves cooking, she shows her love through cooking. So all of our products are either from family traditions that we had when the kids were growing up to new and creative ways of using vanilla like nobody ever has,” Reddekopp said.
Reddekopp says Hawaiian Vanilla Co. also operates the only “vanilla-based” restaurant in the world.
“We’re the only one actually taking it, creating meals and products for people to try,” he said. “There are others growing, we encourage others to grow and we’re really looking in the future to have a lot more vanilla growers here in Hawaii.”
Hawaiian Vanilla Co. is located at 43-2007 Paauilo Mauka Rd.
If you want to check out Hawaiian Vanilla Co. but can’t make it to Hawaii Island, representatives will actually be here on Oahu handing out free Hawaiian vanilla bean ice cream at Honu by the Sea at Waikiki Aquarium, July 4, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.