WAHIAWA, Hawaii - There are a dozen varieties of cauliflower being grown in a Wahiawa field.  Take a closer look at the colorful beauties, orange, green and purple, in addition to white. You can just imagine the potential for local upscale eateries.

It is Hawaii grown, and versatile too.

"If we can develop procedures and management practices to produce cauliflower locally, we can connect growers with the high-end market, the restaurants to justify growing cauliflower,” said Janson Uyeda with the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture.

The university's Culinary School also gets high marks for producing not only cauliflower relish, but cauliflower fried rice and cauliflower chocolate pudding too.

But getting back to the fields, the UH researchers are trying to pinpoint what varieties may hold the most potential for large scale commercial production.  If growers can get premium prices for their crop, it may be worth their while to jump in with both feet.

"This is the yellow variety. It's called Cheddar, and it also has a nice orange color inside,” said Uyeda as he harvested a head during a field day on Thursday.

Cauliflower is normally a cool weather crop, but there have been farmers who've tried growing it on the Big Island and Maui.  Here at the 1,000 foot level in Wahiawa, it’s so far so good.  Researchers have identified at least four varieties are showing promise after being put in the ground in January.

"This crop, and some of these varieties will be perfect for backyard gardeners. You'll get some nice heads that might not be good for high end market. But for personal consumption, they are very good quality. Its’ fairly easy to grow if you can put the pests off, and that can be done by screening,” said Uyeda.

The pests include a tiny little caterpillar that can nest in the flower. It will become the Diamond Back moth and will eat huge holes in the leaves.  It attacks all types of cabbages, so it’s not new to farmers.

Lynn Nakamura-Tengan's family experimented with cauliflower for years up in Kula.  She recalls the seasonal challenges with the heat and altitude.  It's also a labor intensive crop, so farmers sharing what works and doesn’t is a big deal.

“They are putting product in the field and on a day-to-day basis they are making management decisions about what is working and when we as extention agents work with the growers, they bring a lot of their expertise to the table so we are working as a team as far as finding solutions," said CTAHR Educator Lynn Namakura-Tengan.

For one thing, you have to manually shade the flower from direct sun.  Without cold temperatures to keep the leaves closed around the flower, you have to manually protect it from getting burned. Uyeda is using a tie but rubber bands work too.

These trials are a step toward the governor's goal of doubling our food production so Hawaii don’t have to rely so much on imports.  It’s a small plot today, with hopes of big yields later.