Is Jell-O a Fruit or Vegetable?

By Tracey Ristow

On the southeast slopes of beautiful Haleakala volcano in Maui, Hawai’i is ONO Organic Farms. The 50-acre farm has been owned and managed by the same family since the 1970’s and was the site of my ONO Organic Exotic Food Adventure in March 2017. Getting to ONO Organic Farms is a bit of a commitment as it located at the end of the Road to Hana and actually well past Hana. The drive is legendary and takes 3-4 hours to complete but it offers incredible views and interesting sightseeing along the way and it well worth the effort.

The tasting tour was hosted by two ONO Organic Farms WWOOFers. WWOOFers? I had no knowledge of this term either but learned it stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. WWOOFing is a global movement which links volunteers with organic farmers. The farmers get 4-6 hours of work each day and the volunteer receives food and accommodation on the farm. Many WWOOFers remain on the property for 3-6 months. The fruit we sampled included apple banana, ice cream banana, surinam cherry, star apple, star fruit, raw cacao, durian, lychee, mango, jackfruit, soursop, coffee beans, chocolate sapote, kumquat, rambutan, tamarind, guava, trifoliate orange (original citrus) .

Although a decades long vegetarian, I grew up eating literally no fruits or vegetables and it is wonder how I made it to adulthood. My poor mother tried everything to get me to eat fruit and vegetables but my entire repertoire of vegetables consisted of russet potatoes and corn and literally zero fruits. In an attempt to get me to eat something resembling a fruit, she started counting Jell-O as my fruit or vegetable since it was fruit-flavored. Flash forward to current day and I eat almost any fruit and vegetable and I will always at least try something new. I had never tasted many of the exotic fruits at ONO Farms since I was late to the vegetable and fruit bandwagon. My overall new favorite was the jackfruit. This giant fruit takes a bit of work to get to the good parts, but it was so worth the effort. A surprise for me was the durian. I had heard all of the horror stories about the horrible odor of durian and I can attest it is accurate, but the taste is surprisingly good and almost garlic-like. I am thinking of making a durian-based hummus at my next dinner party as an experiment! The weirdest item I tried was sucking on the raw cacao bean which I found to be super slimy and “goopey”.  My least favorite was the original citrus fruit as it was both bitter and sour with a very thick membrane and almost no juice. Thankfully we now have modern citrus hybrids!

After the fruit tasting the WWOOFers took us on a tour of the property and we were able to see how the fruits grow on the trees and how they are harvested. There is an incredible amount of work which goes into growing a single piece of fruit to harvest and I have an increased appreciation for farmers.

So is Jell-O a fruit or a vegetable? Who cares…I don’t eat that stuff anymore.