More than 400 species of fruit are grown at Frankie’s Nursery in Waimanalo, Oahu. Among them there are giant red-fleshed Halawa pomelos and Malaysian jackfruit, a special avocado cultivar developed by the University of Hawaii, and a Burmese grape from Thailand. Over the past 30 years, owner-nurseryman Frank Sekiya has traveled the world to collect and bring back to Hawaii tropical cultivars new and old. He’s even bred a pineapple of his own, the Meli Kalima,” which is so sweet, he says, it approaches the flavor of honey (“Honey Cream” is the English translation of the Hawaiian name).
When Sekiya was young, he worked summers on the pineapple plantation where his dad ran the store. There, he learned by doing and by observation. He studied grafting and did some early experiments of his own on avocados. And he never stopped seeking new fruits.
The valley where Sekiya and his wife, Lynn Tsuruda, have their nursery is the perfect climate for growing fruit trees. It’s more humid and protected from the tradewinds. They started the nursery as a weekend project, but with their adventures resulting in more and more cultivars, it soon grew into an obsession and then a livelihood.
Now people come from all over to buy Frankie’s trees and taste his fruit (he also sells at the Kapiolani Community College Saturday Farmers’ Market). Sure, he has passionfruit and papayas, bananas and grapefruit, but many of his varieties can be found nowhere else in Hawaii.