Have you ever had a close friend or family member go on vacation to Hawaii and bring you back chocolate-covered macadamia nuts? They are among the most popular treats and gifts to bring back home because macadamia nuts are some of the tastiest products to be found in the Aloha State. Whether sprinkled in sugar cookies or glazed in caramel and chocolate, these creamy little nuts are often associated with desserts. However, macadamia nuts actually have unique properties and health benefits that are often overlooked. The following tells you more about this delicious nut and why Hawaii is among the world’s leading producers.
Facts about Macadamia Nuts
The macadamia tree is not indigenous to Hawaii; it originated in Australia. The first macadamia nut tree in Hawaii was planted by the owner of the Pacific Sugar Mill, named William H. Purvis, at the end of the 19th century. However, Hawaii is known for having helped popularize the nut and establish the industry. Hawaiian macadamia trees are grown under strict regulations to ensure the quality of the produce. The Hawaii Macadamia Nut Association is devoted to expanding the industry and preserving high-quality production in Hawaii.
The word “macadamia” comes from a Scottish Chemist named Dr. John MacAdam who settled in Australia. MacAdam became well-known for his work in Analytical Chemistry and Medicine, and in 1860, he was appointed Health Officer of Melbourne. His botanist friend Baron Ferdinand Heinrich von Mueller identified the tree and named it “macadamia” in John MacAdam’s honor.
Unlike other regions, such as Australia and South Africa which harvest the nuts on a seasonal basis, Hawaiian macadamia nuts are known for freshness, being harvested year round. Most of the macadamia nuts are grown and mass-produced on the Big Island. In 2005 to 2006 alone, over 60 million pounds of macadamia nuts were grown.
Because macadamia nuts have no gluten in them, they are often uses in gluten-free flours and recipe. Ground macadamia has a smooth consistency, rich flavor and is a popular substitute for wheat-based flours.
There are roughly seven species of macadamia nuts; but only 2 kinds are cultivated, since not every species produces edible nuts. Macadamia nuts are mineral-rich with calcium, copper, chromium, iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc. The nuts are also loaded with fiber, protein, vitamin-B and antioxidants. The macadamia nut’s fat content is nearly 83% monosaturated fatty acid which helps to increase cardiovascular strength. A study done by Pennsylvania State University in 2008 found that people who get their fats from macadamia nuts, as opposed to other sources, improved their blood lipid profiles and lowered their cholesterol.
While macadamia nuts have notable health benefits, because of the high fat content (roughly 200 calories per ounce), portion control is highly advisable. The nuts carry over 700 calories per 100 grams.
Though chocolate-covered macadamia nuts might be the most popular, many companies produce a wide variety of products. The nuts can be: dipped in white milk or dark chocolate, crushed and mixed into decadent truffles; added to brittle and popcorn; seasoned in sea salt, spices, chives, onion, garlic, jalapeno and chilies or even glazed with honey. Whether you prefer sweet or savory treats, there is certain to be an assortment of Hawaiian macadamia nuts to suit your taste.
Notable Macadamia Nut Farms
Hawaiian Host is known for packaging over 15 million boxes of Hawaiian Host candies per year, making it the largest chocolate-covered macadamia nut producer in the world. They market over 250 products and offer tours of its chocolate factory for all who stop by.
Ahulaloa Farms is another of the Big Island’s farms that grow their produce on the volcanic slopes of Mauna Kea. They are known for authentic Kona coffee and fresh macadamia nuts seasoned in many flavors.
Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company, located in Waimea, not only offers a wide range of macadamia candies and seasoned nuts imaginable, but also by providing macadamia nut pancakes, cooking oils, macadamia nut butter and rum cakes. This is a great place for families to visit and watch informational videos, sample numerous nuts like the jalapeno and spam-flavored macadamia nuts!
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Company, located just south of Hilo, has a nearly 2,500-acre macadamia orchard, a nut processing facility and chocolate factory. Here tourists can enjoy tasting the nuts or visit the guest center. For those who like self-guided tours, guests can venture down its Great Hawaiian Mac Nut Trail which highlights large macadamia nut farms, family-run shops and taste-sampling spots.
Island Princess has been producing award-winning macadamia nut products since 1986. From their macadamia nut caramel corn to the chocolate-dipped or peppery nuts, the Island Princess company arranges beautifully themes gift baskets and limitless options of flavored nuts. They have one of the largest product varieties on the market, making their Honolulu storefront a stop worth making on your way to the airport before you fly home.
Purdy’s Natural Macadamia Nut Farm is a laid back macadamia homestead on 5-acre lot that has been operating since the 1980’s. This friendly Molokai farm welcomes visitors who want to crack nuts open, savor fresh macadamia nuts, take a tour, snatch some recipes or even enjoy conversations with the farm owners Tuddie and Kammy Purdy themselves.
Whatever island you find yourself on, do not leave Hawaii without trying some of Hawaii’s delectable macadamia nuts!