If you have taken the trouble to fly thousands of miles and rent a car to reach this district of the Big Island of Hawaii then you might as well slow down to take a look at the monkey pod tree on the mauka side of the road when driving highway 11 from Kona to Volcanoes National Park since the tourist sights in these parts are a little sparse. There is a nice restaurant here and a chance to get some fruit right off the trees. (pictures taken March, 2001)
Click on a picture below to blow it up!
This right here is a second generation descendant of the monkey pod tree reputedly planted by Mark Twain during his visit here in 1866. It is in the village of Waiohinu just west of Na'alehu in the district of Ka'u on the main highway 11. Mark Twain was here on a writing expedition and wrote many articles and letters while here. About.com has great info about Mark Twain's Hawaii visit.
From his Board and Lodging Secured article of April 20, 1866 ~ "You must have fruit. You feel the want of it here. At any rate, I do, though I cared nothing whatever for it in San Francisco. You pay about twenty-five cents ("two reals," in the language of the country, borrowed from Mexico, where a good deal of their silver money comes from) a dozen for oranges; and so delicious are they that some people frequently eat a good many at luncheon. I seldom eat more than ten or fifteen at a sitting, however, because I despise to see anybody gormandize. Even fifteen is a little surprising to me, though, for two or three oranges in succession were about as much as I could ever relish at home. Bananas are worth about a bit a dozen - enough for that rather over-rated fruit. Strawberries are plenty, and as cheap as the bananas. Those which are carefully cultivated here have a far finer flavor than the California article. They are in season a good part of the year. I have a kind of a general idea that the tamarinds are rather sour this year. I had a curiosity to taste these things, and I knocked half a dozen oŁ the tree and eat them the other day. They sharpened my teeth up like a razor, and put a "wire edge" on them that I think likely will wear off when the enamel does. My judgment now is that when it comes to sublimated sourness, persimmons will have to take a back seat and let the tamarinds come to the front. They are shaped and colored like a pea-nut, and about three times as large. The seeds inside of the thin pod are covered with that sour, gluey substance which I experimented on. They say tamarinds make excellent preserves (and by a wise provision of Providence, they are generally placed in sugar-growing countries), and also that a few of them placed in impure water at sea will render it palatable. Mangoes and guavas are plenty. I do not like them. The limes are excellent, but not very plenty. Most of the apples brought to this market are imported from Oregon. Those I have eaten were as good as bad turnips, but not better. They claim to raise good apples and peaches on some of these islands. I have not seen any grapes, or pears or melons here. They may be out of season, but I keep thinking it is dead Summer time now.
" ~Mark Twain
From his Notable Discovery article of October 25, 1866 ~ "We had an abundance of mangoes, papaias and bananas here, but the pride of the islands, the most delicious fruit known to men, cherimoya, was not in season. It has a soft pulp, like a pawpaw, and is eaten with a spoon. The papaia looks like a small squash, and tastes like a pawpaw." ~Mark Twain
These are all signs tacked near the Mark Twain monkey pod tree