The macadamia is self-pollinating, although growers prefer the cross-pollination of closely planted orchards. The nuts are not shaken from the tree. They fall when they are ripe. They are swept up then brought to the processing plant to remove the husk. Finally, the in-shell nuts are dried.
The macadamia is the hardest of all commercial nuts. Tapered turning steel drums provide the three hundred pounds of pressure required to crack the shell. The empty shells are used as the fuel in the furnace that gives the freshly harvested nuts their first drying. Most macadamia nuts are shipped without their shells so that the customer doesn’t have to worry about the difficult removal.
Remove the husks from one hundred pounds of Hawaiian macadamias and you have fifty pounds of nuts in the shell. Open and discard the shells and you have between twelve and a half and fifteen pounds of shelled nuts. In some other places where macadamias are grown, the yield is as low as seven pounds of kernels from one hundred pounds.
Hawaii is an ideal place for the macadamias due to the lack of indigenous insect pests that can require a lot of expensive control measures. In the Hawaiian orchards, no pesticide spraying is needed.
In the past decade, however, drought conditions have hurt the harvest and challenged scientists to find solutions. Rick Vidgen, president of MacFarms, one of Hawaii’s leading growers, says such a problem “makes us better farmers. People set to work developing better ways to maximize the available water, and develop cultivars that can handle the drier conditions”. Like the nut he grows, Vidgen is Australian. He is the chairman of the nutrition committee of the International Tree Nut Council. Consequently, he is happy with scientific studies that give the rich nuts he grows a good report card.
Where Can You Find The Most Macadamia Nut Production?
World macadamia nut production is between thirty-five and forty million pounds. A relatively minor nut when compared with almonds and pecans. Australia produces about 45 percent of the world’s supply and Hawaii comes in second with 35 Percent. In recent years, orchards have been established in Kenya, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and other tropical countries. There are a number of macadamia orchards in California. Increasingly, Mexico is growing macadamias on small, but growing amounts of farms.
The Hawaiian macadamias have had some high-profile champions. Julie Andrews and James Stewart were both early investors in orchards there. Jim Nabors, who was TV’s Gomer Pyle, discovered, early on, the beauty of both Hawaii and macadamia orchards. In the 1970s, Anita DeDomenico, who gave up a career as a ballerina to develop macadamia nut production farms in Hawaii. She created the first macadamia cookbook. “It is the rarest and noblest of all nuts,” she wrote.