National Macadamia Nut Day is observed annually on September 4th. Macadamia nuts, with their rich, buttery taste, are known by many to be one of the most delectable of all nuts. They originated in Australia and are named after physician and chemist, John Macadam, who encouraged the cultivation of the nuts in Australia.
Macadamia nuts are grown on trees resembling large evergreens and grow to 30 to 40 ft. high. Although they are native to Australia, most of today’s world supply is grown in Hawaii. They were first commercially grown there in 1921. A few other places, such as Indonesia, South Africa, Central America and California also cultivate some of these tasty nuts.
- The nut itself was first discovered (at least among Europeans) by Allan Cunningham in 1828, but it took another 29 years for it to be named. It was named by Ferdinand von Mueller, a German-Australian Chemist and botanist, after his good friend John Macadam. In 1882 the trees were cultivated in Hawaii to help protect sugar cane, but they didn’t come into agricultural cultivation until 1888. From there it has consistently exploded into popularity, and has become a mainstay of the nut industry.
- The Macadamia Nut is one of Australia’s few contributions to the world’s food plants, and this rich, buttery nut is considered by many to be the most delicious of all nuts.
- The Macadamia was introduced into Hawaii around 1881 and used as an ornamental. The first commercial orchards of macadamias in Hawaii were not planted until 1921.
- Most of the world’s macadamia nuts are grown on the island of Hawaii.
- Today Macadamias are cultivated in many areas, including Indonesia, Central America, South Africa, the West Indies, Mediterranean countries and California.
- Macadamia nuts are not picked from the tree but are fully ripened when they fall and are then harvested.
- Tough nut to crack: it takes 300 lbs. per square inch to break the macadamia nut shell, hardest of all nut shells.
- 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.
- U.S. is the largest consumer (51%) of macadamia nuts with Japan following at 15%.
- Macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fatty acid (“good” fat) and have been demonstrated to help reduce overall cholesterol levels.
- Nuts are high in minerals and protein and are part of a healthy diet.
- 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.
- The macadamia is the most calorie-laden nut. One hundred grams (about 2/3 cup or a handful) contains 718 calories.