I picked up an odd little pineapple at the market the other day. Odd, because the crown had been sliced off and it had a fancy laminated tag attached. On it was a picture of a guy I happen to know.
“Hey,” I thought, “That’s Frankie!”
That would be Frank Sekiya, owner of Frankie’s Nursery in Waimanalo. He’s made a name for himself locally by specializing in tropical and sub-tropical fruit trees. The lemon tree my husband and I got from him a while back is showering us with fruit this year.
But I digress.
I bought the pineapple, took it home, sliced it up and popped a piece in my mouth.
Yes, that was me, purring with pleasure.
Now, I love pineapples, but you and I know they’re not always sweet. This one was like a sugar party in my mouth.
“I thought of calling it honey cream,” Sekiya said when I asked him about it (and yes, I tracked him down in Waimanalo).
But his wife Lynn liked the Hawaiian translation, “Meli Kalima,” so that’s what it is.
And the Meli Kalima is the sweetest pineapple in the world. You don’t have to take my word for it. It’s a measurable difference.
Sekiya explained how winemakers and fruit growers measure sweetness with a metric called “Brix.” One degree of Brix is equal to one gram of sucrose per 100 grams of solution.
“To give you an example,” he said, “honey is listed at 32 on the Brix scale. This Meli Kalima is 28. So it’s just four points below honey.
“Other pineapples, I think the highest they ever get up to is like, 19, and only during the summer months.
“This pineapple stays sweet even during the winter months when other pineapples are sour.”
Sekiya said curiosity was the spark of the honey cream’s creation. He had two different types of pineapples growing side by side in his garden. He started tinkering around, growing the seeds and, “I had about 15 that I thought were as good or better than the parent. This is our number 13 selection.”
Number thirteen turned out to be their lucky number.
“A friend tasted it and said, you know I never tasted a pineapple as good as this.”
Sekiya said everyone who tasted it said the same thing, and that gave him the confidence to start propagating it. As the demand grew he picked up some land in Kunia to grow the pineapples commercially. And he realized something.
He loves his nursery, and “The pineapple business is something I don’t want to be in.”
Sekiya, like a lot of local folks, worked in the Dole fields when he was a teenager. And like a lot of folks, he hated it.
“It’s just really hard work,” he said, laughing.
He tried to get Dole to grow his pineapple and said, “Their executives wanted to carry it. But when the word finally got to Murdock, he was against it.”
Murdock, he was told, doesn’t even like pineapples.
So that was that.
Meli Kalima is patented, and Sekiya hopes someone will want to take a chance on cultivating and marketing it.
My sweet tooth hopes so, too. It’s got to be worth it to somebody to grow the best pineapple in the world.
In the meantime, you can buy Frankie’s Meli Kalima pineapple at Whole Foods. I hear they’re selling fast.