Macadamia nuts (Macadamia integrifolia) also known as Hawai’i nut, Queensland nut, bush nut, maroochi nut, and bauple nut are adored throughout the world. The Macadamia tree is a fast growing medium-sized evergreen tree with dense foliage, lovely small white flowers and smooth hard shells that both cover and protect the precious macadamia nuts.
Native to Australia, Macadamia trees (Protaeacae) are found growing naturally in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. The Macadamia tree was named in honor of the Scottish-American chemist John Macadam decades after he ‘discovered’ the beloved tropical evergreen tree in Australia. Planted in 1858, Brisbane’s city botanic gardens are home to the oldest known cultivated macadamia tree.
In the continental United States, macadamia nut trees are found in the sunshine states of California, Florida, and Hawai’i. In recent years numerous countries including South Africa, Asia, and Latin America have begun production of macadamia nuts.
Introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in 1881 by an Australian named William Herbert Purvis, the first of these wonderful macadamia trees were planted in Kukuihaele on the ‘big island’ of Hawai’i. Eventually becoming the world’s top producer of macadamia nuts Hawai’i is respected globally for producing delicious and nutritious macadamia nuts.
Growing best at altitudes that range from sea level to 2,500 feet, macadamia trees require somewhere between 60-120 inches of rain per year and prefer deep and well-drained soil. Thriving in subtropical climates with light humidity these trees tolerate only moderate amounts of heat, frost, and wind.
In Hawai’i, commercial macadamia orchards are most often planted with seedlings grown from grafted trees. Macadamia tree orchards do require a lot of care and management with the trees producing their first (albeit modest) crops sometime around the fifth year and arrive at full fruition within the first twelve to fifteen years after planting.
Encased within a smooth, yet very hard shell, macadamia nuts (which are actually seeds) can and do ripen throughout the year with the largest harvest is in the fall and spring. Although macadamia trees have lower yields than most other nut trees, an incredibly healthy well cared for tree will produce macadamia nuts for 40 plus years.
Providing an average of 5,200 – 7,000 pounds of nuts per acre, macadamia nuts are harvested either manually or with the help of a mechanic sweeper after falling to the earth. An exceptional secondary benefit comes from the husks of the macadamia nut which may be used as both a compost and a fertilizer for future harvests . In addition to the nuts and husks, the flowers of the macadamia nut trees provide nectar for honeybees who then make delicious and nutritious macadamia nut honey.
Renowned for their extensive health-related benefits, macadamia nuts are indeed a nutritional powerhouse. These exotic nuts contain a plethora of micro-nutrients including vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, antioxidants, high-quality protein, and nutrient-dense monounsaturated fats.
An excellent source of B-vitamins, magnesium, iron, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, and zinc, macadamia nuts contain one of the few known sources of Omega-7 fatty acid (palmitoleic acid). Omega-7 has been shown to decrease various risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including cholesterol levels, BMI (body mass index), oxidative stress, and inflammation.
Of paramount importance to all cells, fatty acids provide energy, function as signaling molecules, and sustain the integrity of cell membranes. Fatty acids are found in abundance in the nervous system and brain where they participate in its development and maintenance throughout life.
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in your body. High in antioxidants, research shows that macadamia nuts (and other tree nuts) naturally protect against oxidative stress that damage tissues and cells.
Macadamia nuts are among the fattiest of all nuts with over 80% of the fat in macadamia measuring in as monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fatty acids are shown to assist in glucose regulation making nuts in general and macadamia nuts specifically an excellent choice for those with blood sugar imbalances.
Low in carbohydrates and high in plant based fats macadamia nuts are indeed keto-friendly! Overall macadamia nuts provide us with a plant-based plant-friendly way to get all of the keto-friendly benefits of nut consumption without loading up on carbohydrates.
Macadamia nut oils are often cold pressed which provides for a higher ‘smoke point’ than most other oils including olive oil making macadamia nut oil an excellent low-carb, gluten-free option for cooking, including baking and stir fry options.
The nuts themselves are sold by the pound as either raw or roasted and salted or unsalted. The deep rich flavor of macadamia nuts makes these versatile life-enhancing nuts an excellent alternative choice for dairy-free milks, cookies, nut butters, pestos, and pie crusts.