The goodies you’ll find coming out of Hāna Jungle Kitchen (HJK) are the creative outlet of Malia Lauer and Hank Gaskell. Motivated by their outdoor and culinary passions, the couple began to experiment with the tropical fruits they’d been growing together for the past 17 years. With many of their friends and neighbors out of contact with family and loved ones during the pandemic, they found themselves creating and delivering heartfelt care packages full of homemade snacks to their front doorsteps.
Hank has been handling a machete since he was three years old. Chopping at a banana trees, while his father proudly watched. He grew up harvesting bananas, avos, mangos, figs and various vegetables from his family garden in Pu’uiki, selling fruit and flower bouquets from the farm stand in front of his home. He would save up for months in order to buy surfboards, which helped set him on track to having a career as a professional surfer.
Originally from Oahu, Malia grew up in her parents’ garden weeding and clearing trees from as far back as she can remember. What started as a closet collection of jarred mushrooms from her yard, quickly became an obsession with as many medicinal herbs, psychoactive plants and exotic fruits as she could get her hands on, always finding unique ways to use them. Later, Malia would gain additional experience working on farms in India, Israel, Holland, Ireland and across California.
Hank and Malia began their journey as friends picking out fruit trees to plant at Hank’s house in Maka’alea when they were still teenagers. She offered to take care of the trees, singing to them of course, while Hank was off on surf trips. Instead, they found themselves taking those trips together, and later harvesting from those very same trees for the goodies they now sell at the market.
“It’s just so rewarding to eat and share food that you have cultivated or caught yourself. Farming, beekeeping, foraging, hunting, spearfishing and sharing the goods at dinner parties with friends and family are some of my favorite parts of life.” ~Hank Gaskell
Hank and Malia’s shared love of bees and honey lead them to create Hank’s Bees – hanksbees.com, a sister business to HJK that’s primarily focuses on rehoming unwanted swarms or hives. They also provide community education for beekeeping, which helps push them to further their understanding of bees and their role in keeping our precious ecosystem heathy.
If you ask them their favorite HJK product, they’ll say they love it all! But honey holds a special place in their hearts, finding in it a connection to these sweet little producers that unknowingly teach us how to work together as a community.
“Not only is honey an ancient food that was eaten across cultures from all over the world, but it’s just pure magic created by bee regurgitation!” ~Hank Gaskell
HJK was created from an abundance of fresh products Malia and Hank wanted to share. The farmers market provided them a convenient and effective way to connect with local residents and see people excited about their homemade products.
“The market is a great way to connect with the community and other farmers to share laughs, ideas and products. We feel very lucky to have something so special right here in Hāna.” ~Hank Gaskell
When Malia and Hank aren’t experimenting in the kitchen, rehoming bees, and going on a “chickie cruise” (unwinding their day, by enjoying a cold beverage in lawn chairs, while hand-feeding with their new flock of hens), Hank is a professional surfer and Malia a Maui physical therapist.
Make sure to stop by their booth at the market this week to see all their Hāna Jungle Kitchen goodies. You’ll find fresh coconut milk, homemade coconut ice cream, dried bananas, assorted fruit leather, coconut chips, homemade granola bars, cacao, eggs, mamaki and other herbal teas. On Instagram @hanajunglekitchen
Secrets from the Hāna Jungle Kitchen
A national dish of Tahiti and French Polynesia, Poisson cru is French for “raw fish.” Different from local Hawaiian Poke, Poisson cru is traditionally prepared with fresh fish, lime juice, various vegetables, and coconut milk
“The ingredients vary every time I have made it, but it always comes out good, so long as you have good fresh fish and vegetables.” – Hank Gaskell
Fresh Uku (caught by Hank), Lime, Salt, Cucumber, Mango, Bell Pepper, Onion & Hāna Jungle Kitchen Fresh Coconut Milk.
To prepare, Soak raw fish in lime juice for 20-30 minutes. Then mix the fish with salt, veggie ingredients and coconut milk until it looks like the photo. It’s that easy!