Macadamias are the edible nuts that come from the macadamia tree. The tree has four species but only three of them are of commercial importance. The other one produces poisonous nuts that resulted from toxic amounts of cyanogenic glycosides. Despite this, macadamias are native to Australia. Particularly, in New South Wales and Queensland.
Allan Cunningham encountered the plant in 1828. In 1857, a German-Australian botanist named the nuts from a Scottish physician and chemist, John Macadam, who promoted the nuts in Australia. By the year 1881, these nuts were in Hawaii. However, they were more used as an ornamental crop. It wasn’t until 1921 that the first commercial macadamia orchards in Hawaii were planted. Australia and Hawaii still produce large amounts of macadamias. However, as of 2018, South Africa has regained its crown as the world’s largest producer, accounting for 25% of global production. Kenya produces 14% while the United States produces 9%.
Macadamias have the highest fat content among all the tree nuts. Thus, they naturally have a rich, buttery flavor. When roasted or salted, their flavor intensifies while bringing a subtle sweetness and creamy texture. Hence, they make a great addition to desserts, especially in cookie doughs and pie crusts. But, they’re also used to compliment bitter foods.
Genus: Macadamia F. Muell.
Species: Macadamia integrifolia, M. jansenii, M. ternifolia, M. tetraphylla
Binomial Name: Varied (4 species)
- The National Macadamia Nut Day is celebrated every September 4th.
- Macadamia nuts are harvested from the ground. Although the trees bloom with nuts, they aren’t really picked directly off the tree. Instead, the growers wait for the nuts to fall to the ground before they harvest them as this is an indication that they’re ripe and ready to eat.
- Macadamia has the hardest shell among all nuts. It takes 300 pounds per square inch to break its shell.
- Macadamia nuts are toxic for dogs and cats. If they eat them, they wouldn’t be able to stand up for 12 hours. They will generally feel better after 48 hours though.
Macadamia Buying Guide
Macadamias can be easily found in supermarkets, health food stores, farmers’ markets, and online. They can be purchased in the shell or out of the shell. Out of the shell, nuts can be whole, flaked, ground, or pressed into oils. While most are sold roasted, some can be bought fresh while they’re still green. Here are some buying tips that might be helpful:
- Macadamias in the shell are more affordable and have a longer shelf life. It’s because their outer layer protects them from exposure to light and air. When buying them, check out the shells and avoid the ones that have cracks, holes, or splits.
- When buying macadamias out of the shell, choose the ones that look plump and crisp. Avoid the ones that look shriveled as it’s an indication of poor quality and most likely have been on the shelf for too long.
- Processed nuts, or those that are salted or roasted in oils, are more expensive but they have a lesser shelf life. Thus, if you want to save money, consider seasoning them at home. Plus, you’ll also get the chance to control the amount of salt you put into the nut-based on your taste or dietary restrictions.
- If you’re buying from large supermarkets, you can find macadamias in four locations: the produce section, the baking section, the gourmet section, and the nut section. Thus, if you find macadamias in two or more locations, compare their prices by the ounce. Interestingly, you’ll discover that they have different prices.
Meanwhile, macadamias can also be turned into different products. Below is the list of the most popular ones that you may consider as well, depending on where you plan to use them.
- Macadamia flour – This makes a great gluten-free and low-carb alternative for baking.
- Macadamia milk – This makes a great dairy-free milk alternative, either for baking or for beverages. It can be made simply soaking macadamia nuts in water and blending them together.
- Macadamia nut butter – This makes a great spread or an alternative to peanut butter. It can be made simply by blending the nuts into a creamy, butter-like consistency paste using a high-powered blender or food processor. You may also add some honey and/or coconut oil for extra texture and flavor.
- Macadamia oil – This is made by cold pressing the macadamia nuts into oil. It has a higher smoking point compared to olive oil and they’re also a healthy alternative for baking, sautéing, stir-frying, grilling, and so much more!
Macadamia Production & Farming in Texas
Macadamia trees thrive in tropical climates that’s why most species cannot withstand temperatures below 25ºF. Their hardiness also varies depending on the species but some are reported to tolerate much colder temperatures. Thus, these trees thrive in the southernmost regions of Texas, where the soil is deeply fertile, well-draining, and slightly acidic. Here, the rainfall is also abundant and there’s only a little danger of frost.
If you’re planning to grow macadamias in Texas, start in a nursery seedling. Once you’re done with rootstocks, plant them in January so that by the onset of spring, you can have your macadamia nuts on the ground.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
While you can find a lot of pure macadamias, without any additives or chemicals, some seasoned ones do have. Hence, here are the following additives that we found:
- Sodium – Although sodium is a natural food that balances our body fluids, it can cause harm when consumed past its RDA which is 2,300 mg per day.
- Dextrose and Maltodextrin – It is a type of sugar that acts as an artificial sweetener, food neutralizer, and a preservative. Too much consumption of this ingredient can lead to body fluid build-up and high blood sugar.
- Yeast extracts – These are added as a flavor enhancer and possess the same side effects just like MSG. You may want to avoid products with these ingredients especially if you have blood pressure problems or sodium-related concerns.
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein – Abbreviated as HVP, this additive creates a broth taste without meat, bones, and vegetables. Common HVP includes hydrolyzed corn, hydrolyzed yeast protein (a.k.a. yeast extracts), hydrolyzed soy, hydrolyzed wheat protein, and hydrolyzed wheat gluten. Although HVP is a processed additive, it is a good source of protein.
- Silicon Dioxide – This chemical compound is also known as silica. It is used as a thickener, stabilizer, anticaking agent, and carrier for aroma and flavor. Although it is safe to consume, it can lead to lung problems when consumed past its RDA.
- Malic Acid – This is a chemical compound that contributes to the sour taste of fruits. It’s commonly added as a flavoring agent to give food a tart taste. Some side effects include headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and allergic reactions.
- Natural Flavorings – Likewise, these are additives that are used to intensify the flavors of the product. For roasted and salted macadamias, some natural flavorings include garlic powder, onion powder, and rosemary extract, as well as other spices and herbs.
South Africa and Australia remains to be the world’s leading producers of macadamia nuts, accounting for 55% of the total world production. They’re then followed by Kenya, China, USA (mainly Hawaii), Guatemala, Vietnam, Colombia, New Zealand, and Swaziland. Despite this, the United States remains to be the largest consumer, accounting for 51%. Japan follows at 15%.
Macadamia nuts are available loose, raw, roasted, or salted. They usually come in either resealable or non-resealable bags, plastic jars, mason jars, and foil-lined cans.
Macadamia nuts are traditionally enjoyed raw. However, their taste still differs depending on the variety. The Macadamia tetraphylla variety is sweeter and therefore best to eat raw. You can also sprinkle them on salads, cheese platters, and more!
Just like other nuts, macadamias are also delicate and highly perishable, especially when they’re removed from their shells, which is most likely how you’ll buy them. Thus, they should be eaten as soon as possible. You may keep them at room temperature but they’ll only last a few weeks there. Still, make sure that you store them away from heat and humidity. Better yet, keep them in the refrigerator or freezer, when they can last for from 6 to 12 months. On the other hand, unshelled macadamias must be stored in a cool and dry place, where they can last for up to 4 months. Regardless, they should be kept in an opaque, airtight container. Meanwhile, macadamia oil can be kept at room temperature for as long as 2 years without deteriorating.
Cooking with macadamia nuts is just as wonderful as eating them raw. When the recipe requires baking, the Macadamia integrifolia variety is best to use as some varieties have a higher sugar content and therefore prone to burning. It’s also good to know that the flavor profile of macadamias pair well with coffee, coconut, and lemon.
Meanwhile, roasted macadamias is probably one of the best ways to enjoy these nuts cooked. Not to mention that it’s also cheaper and more convenient to roast them at home. To do so, simply spread the nuts on a baking sheet and place them in the oven that’s preheated at 400ºF. Five minutes is all you need and you’ll have freshly roasted macadamia nuts. You may also season them with some salt and pepper, along with some spices too!
Macadamia nuts are made up of 76% fat, 14% carbohydrates, 8% protein, and 2% water. As mentioned, they have the highest fat content among all tree nuts. However, these fats are mainly monounsaturated fatty acids, a.k.a good fats, and have been proven to reduce the overall cholesterol levels when consumed at recommended amounts. They’re also high in thiamine and vitamin b6, along with manganese, magnesium, and iron.
When Are Macadamias in Season in Texas?
To find out when Macadamias are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.