Like leis and pineapple, the macadamia nut is something that you associate with Hawaii. In fact, the nut is so identified with America’s 51st state that it is hard to believe that macadamias actually originated from Australia.
Aborigines from Down Under have been enjoying macadamias for thousands of years. European researchers learned about the nut early in the 19th century but it was only in 1857 when Scottish-Australian chemist, John Macadam, took time to conduct research studies on the nut. In it is his honor that the macadamia nut is named. The first macadamia tree was planted in Hawaii in 1882. The fertile volcanic soil and warm climate provided the ideal conditions for the trees to thrive. Today, Hawaii is the world’s largest producer of macadamia nuts.
In addition to how the macadamia became a Hawaiian symbol, there are other remarkable details about the nut that is worth taking note of:
- Macadamia trees bear fruit within 5 to 8 years from planting. The tree can grow up to 12 meters in height and live up to a hundred years.
- Macadamias love to grow in places where the climate is warm. This is why you can find them cultivated in Hawaii, Australia, Brazil, South Africa and California.
- Harvesting macadamias is easy to do. Once ripe and ready for harvest, the nuts fall from the tree and they are picked from the ground.
- Even with the ease of harvest, the macadamia is still the most expensive nut in the world. In addition to being prized for its delicious taste and high fat content, only a limited number of fruits are produced by a single tree per season. The nut also has a very hard shell that needs to be cracked open before being sold in the market.
- Of the seven species of macadamia trees, only two produce edible nuts. The others types of nuts are poisonous because they contain high levels of toxins called cyanogenic glycosides, which can cause cyanide poisoning when ingested.
- Never feed macadamia nuts to your dogs, as they are toxic to canines. When eaten, they can cause paralysis in the limbs, joint pain and abdominal pain.
- The fat content of a kernel of macadamia nut can be as high as 80%. The oil extracted from macadamias is used not only as food but in cosmetics as well.
- The macadamia is the most calorie-laden nut. One hundred grams (about 2/3 cup or a handful) contains 718 calories.
- Among all the nuts, the macadamia shell is the toughest one to crack. In order to crack a macadamia nut open, you would need to apply a pressure of approximately 300 pounds per square inch.
- The hyacinth macaw, a parrot species that is native to South America and feeds on fruits, nuts and seeds, possesses a large beak that is powerful enough to open a macadamia nut.