For thousands of years before European settlement, the aborigines of Australia ate the native seed that grew in the rainforests of eastern Australia. One of these seeds was called gyndl or jindilli, which was later borrowed as “kindal” by early Europeans. The first European to discover the macadamia plant was Allan Cunningham in 1828 and it wasn’t until 1857 that the German botanist Ferdinand Von Mueller gave the genus the scientific name Macadamia – named after his friend, Dr. John Macadam, a noted scientist and secretary to the Philosophical Institute of Australia.
The first commercial orchard of macadamia trees in Australia was planted in the early 1880s by Rous Mill, 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) southeast of Lismore, New South Wales. Besides the development of a small boutique industry in Australia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, macadamia was extensively planted as a commercial crop in Hawaii from the 1920s. Macadamia seeds were first imported into Hawaii in 1882 by William H. Purvis.
The Macadamia nut while being a native of Australia and a member of the Proteaceae family, is closely related to the New Zealand Rewarewa. New Zealand provides a special opportunity to grow a clean healthy quality product.
Today, total world macadamia production accounts for less than 2% of the world trade in nuts. New Zealand produces less than 1% of this.
New Zealand orchards
Macadamias require temperate climates and areas that have low frost risk though, as mature trees they will withstand minus 6 degrees – in general, if tamarillos can be grown so can macadamias. Orchards are found in coastal areas of Northland, Auckland, Taranaki, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, East Cape and Hawkes Bay. Macadamias flourish best in soil rich in organic matter, but can tolerate a wide range of soils from clay to sandy loam.
All macadamia trees grown for commercial purposes are grafted; there are approximately 600 different varieties not all of which are available in NZ.
It is advised to always plant a mixture of varieties scattered evenly throughout the orchard in order to ensure adequate pollination. Today in NZ most varieties are good croppers in their own right.
Macadamias besides being incredibly delicious are considered the world’s finest nut. Their delicate flavour, versatility and crunchy texture make them a delight to consume.
A number of clients purchase macadamia kernel on advice from their health professionals as they contain a range of nutritious and health promoting constituents and form an important part of a healthy diet. A balanced diet containing macadamias promotes good health, longevity and a reduction in degenerative diseases. There is increasing evidence that they have a positive effect on many aspects of our health and they are full of important nutrients including monounsaturated fats, proteins, dietary fibre, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals. Macadamias contain significant levels of protein which are an essential component of our diet and in our bodies form muscle and connective tissues, hair and nails, are part of our blood and act positively on many aspects of our health. They are also beneficial for both heart and cancer patients as well as folk suffering from epilepsy, various forms of autism and auto immune diseases. There is a zero GI value in 50gms of fresh kernel and although a high-fat food it’s believed that the nut is so satiating and high in fibre that in itself it is not fattening.
- Macadamias can help lower blood cholesterol levels
- Macadamias may reduce the incidence of heart disease
- They are high in fibre
- Very high proportion of monounsaturated fat (the good fats)
- No cholesterol
- Contain vitamins, minerals and protein essential in a healthy diet
Macadamia oil is prized for containing approximately 22% of the omega-7 palmitoleic acid, which makes it a botanical alternative to mink oil, which contains approximately 17%. This relatively high content of “cushiony” palmitoleic acid plus macadamia’s high oxidative stability make it a desirable ingredient in cosmetics, especially for skincare.
Management and cultivating
The macadamia tree is usually propagated by grafting, and does not begin to produce commercial quantities of seeds until it is 7–10 years old, but once established, may continue bearing for over 100 years. Macadamias prefer fertile, well-drained soils, a rainfall of 1,000–2,000 mm, and temperatures not falling below 10 °C (although once established, they can withstand light frosts), with an optimum temperature of 25 °C. Seasonal pruning for shape and light is typically done in winter. Though the tree can reach 10m high, timely pruning maintains trees to a more manageable height.
Harvesting and Processing
See the details for this process on Aotea Macadamias Process Operations Page