Establishing "Bush Tucker" in Hawaii

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $22,870.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2021
Host Institution Award ID: G274-20-W7900
Grant Recipient: Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Ken Love
Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers

Information Products

Finger Limes (Bulletin)


  • Fruits: berries (other), citrus, plums


  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, other, varieties and cultivars


    Hawaii owes much of its agricultural sustainability and economic successes to Australia with its small fruit farms, new varieties of fruit crops and development of new production approaches.  Commodities such as Queensland nut (macadamia), Hawaii’s main export avocado (Sharwil), Blackgold Jackfruit and newer fruit crops such as finger limes are developing as an economic boon for Hawaii’s growers. The domestication of previously wild edible crops referred to as “Bush Tucker” are traditional aboriginal foods.  Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers (HTFG) members have expressed a desire to learn what other crops might be beneficial for farm resiliency, economic and environmental sustainability.

    Preliminary research and interactions with local chefs has shown that some of the“bush tucker” fruits have tremendous potential in Hawaii both in culinary applications and as value-added product ingredients.

    This project proposes to clone and distribute trees of Ooray (Davidsonia pruriens), Midgen berry (Austromyrtus dulcis), Finger limes (Citrus australasica), Lemon aspen (Acronychia acidula), and Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora). The project will collaborate with American Culinary chefs to evaluate the fruit already producing in Hawaii and develop special dishes and value added products. This would include finger limes, Ooray, and Midgen berries.  Additional germplasm of these species and Australian selections would be brought into Hawaii, following USDA-APHIS protocols, in seed form, then grown out at seven collaborator locations along with the already cloned trees mentioned above. This project will add to grower economic sustainability through diversification, providing options for value added products and have potential for large scale commercial commodity following the example of Macadamia.

    The expedancy at which this  project was completed was in part due to an extremely good crop year. In 2019 the "mother repository" had 32 inches of rain and in 2020  we are up to 101 inches which is quite rare for this part of Hawaii. The pandemic also made travel and other projects impossible to perform so more time was available for this project and we were able to  clone and distribute plants much faster than originally anticipated., 




    Project objectives:

    1. Prepare trees for each of seven locations which includes cloning those already in Hawaii and obtaining additional seed or plant material from Australia.

    In addition to the above, we were able to produce hundreds of extra trees that were distributed to members. A good crop year enabled sufficient  fruit to be given to chefs and value added product producers. 

    1. Distribute trees to each repository location. Three at each location will be planted while seeds and other material from Australia will be grown out by the PI for later distribution.

    Trees were sent to each location although in some cases meetings  were not permitted due to the pandemic. The trees for this locations on Kauai and Hilo  are being help by the repository manager until such time they can be put in the ground.

    1. Obtain and distribute fruit for testing to each chef and value added product collaborator.

    Ooray puree and finger limes were distributed to a dozen chefs and value added producers to experiment with. When the pandemic closed hotels in Hawaii, some chefs were unable to complete their roll while others came up with additional uses for the  products.  Arguably in Hawaii chefs are the growers best customers.  The adoption of ooray onto major  hotel menus like the four seasons and Kohanaiki promise growers a valuable market for the  future. Products produced from test fruit provided by this project include fingerlime sugar & salt and fingerlime  guacamole. Ooray, jam, jelly, syrup, selzer water, reductions, curry base, vinegar, hot sauce and meat sauces for lamb and venison.

    1. Monitor tree health and growth at each location. Note differences due to climatic conditions.

    Trees were monitored on each island at HTFG repositories and a few private farms. On Kauai and in Hilo in heavy rain areas no supplemental irrigation was needed although on Kauai the irrigation is in place in case of the occasional dry spell.  At locations in Kona irrigation is in place and in some instances used briefly (8 minutes per day with 1/2 and gallon per hour emitters) in other cases due to the abnormal  rainfall year no irrigation was supplied to finger limes but was supplied to lemon aspen, midgen berry and magenta lily pilly (Syzgium sp). 

    Maui had a lengthy dry spell and irrigation supplied or in some case s  deep watering on a biweekly basis.  Molokai and Lanai have irrigation in place and usd as needed.  Over the course of the project no unusual temperatures were reported. 

    1. Prepare extension publication that will be available free online with a limited print run for distribution at the HTFG annual conference and other meeting..

    Both publications have been uploaded in conjunction with this report.

    1. Discuss project at annual conference. This discussion will focus on project improvement and the sharing of production technologies, observations and marketing avenues.


    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.