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AUSTRAILAS MOST DELICIOUS BUSH NUT
Hints for Macadamia growers
Macadamia nuts are the only commercially grown Australian bush food (Stephenson 1983). While never a secret to the Aboriginal people, countries such as South Africa, America, Malawi, Kenya, Israel, Brazil and many other subtropical regions have now ventured into Macadamia nut farming.
The mature tree grows to a height of 12-15m, with dark shinny leaves and branches that bear long sweet smelling racemes of creamy white flowers. Come summer each spray of 40-50 flowers produces 4-15 nutlets which, eventually ripen into large clusters of nuts flowers (Stewart and Percival 1997). The macadamia kernel, safely stored within a hard shell, is often described as the sweetest nut Mother Nature can provide.
Aboriginal People have been aware of this natural treasure for thousands of years (Stewart and Percival 1997). Allan Cunningham later discovered the Macadamia Nut in 1828. It did not take long before more people began to realise the potential of the indigenous Bush Nut as a commercial commodity. For more information on the present cultivation of the Macadamia Nut visit the Australian Industry Profile web site.
In the early 1900s an enterprising group of horticulturists from America tasted the Macadamia Nut whilst visiting Australia. Overwhelmed by the taste sensation, they immediately had dollar signs flashing in their eyes. The volcanic slopes of Hawaii are now the worlds largest producer of the Australian Nut, frequently confused with the title Hawaiian Nut.
Macadamias are part of the Proteaceae family (Stewart and Percival 1997). The genus was named after John Macadam, a well-respected chemist and member of the Legislative Assembly for Castlemaine in Victoria (Vock 1989). He was largely responsible for the move towards the cultivation of the species.
There are five species, two of which are edible and cultivated in Australia. Macadamia integrifolia has a smooth shelled nut and Macadamia tetraphylla produces nuts with a rough shell (Stewart and Percival 1997).
Macadamias are native to the subtropical rainforests of the continents east coast (Vock 1989). The indigenous tree is rarely seen in the bush, as it is endangered in its natural habitat due to agricultural clearing (Stewart and Percival 1997). Conversely, one could argue that present agricultural cultivation of the species is protecting it from extinction. It is, however, predicted to disappear from the wild within the next 10-20 years if present land use continues (Vock 1989).
Propagation is usually achieved through cutting and grafting (Stephenson 1983). The root stock is readily grown from seed under nursery conditions. This method of propagation is very popular in macadamia farming as it allows the farmer to create specific tree varieties. After 3-4 years in the nursery environment the young tree is usually planted into the orchard during February-April when rainfall is good and soil is moist grafting (Stephenson 1983).
Macadamia trees usually reach maturity and begin to produce viable nut loads around the age of ten (Vock 1989). However, for adequate yields trees need to be planted under favourable conditions and require good farm management during the formative years of maturity.
SOME USEFUL TIPS FOR MACADAMIA NUT FARMING
NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS AND USES
Macadamia nuts can be eaten raw, roasted, coated in chocolate, in cakes, as butter, or as oil. Macadamia oil is the most mono-unsaturated oil available (Mavis 1997).
Little research has been conducted to show the exact nutritional benefits of Macadamia nuts. It has been shown, however, that there is a strong negative association between nut consumption and incidence of heart disease (Mavis 1997). This has been correlated with the high content of mono-unsaturated fatty acids in macadamia nuts (Mavis 1997). By replacing dietary saturated fats with mono-unsaturated fats, a persons cholesterol level can benefit, hence, reducing the risk of heart disease.
Nuts are also high in fibre, selenium and phytic acid, all of which are associated with reduction in cancer risk (Mavis 1997).
While you are munching on your tasty Macadamias nuts, feeling pleased because your reducing your cholesterol, you may start to feel the weight pile on your figure, whilst your hip pocket is getting lighter and lighter. It is, therefore, important to remember that research on the health benefits of macadamia nuts is limited and controversial (Mavis 1997).
By buying Australian Macadamia nuts you are supporting the Australian Agricultural economy and promoting the protection of an endangered Australian plant. If that is not reason enough to indulge yourself, your taste buds and your arteries will thank you as well.
Mavis, Abbey. (1997). Review of the Health Benefits of Macadamia Nuts. Horticultural Research and Development Corporation. Gordon, New South Wales.
Stephenson, R.A. (1983). Farm Characteristics and Management Practices in the Australian Macadamia Industry. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.
Stewart, K., and Percival, B. (1997). Bush Foods of NSW: A Botanical Record and an Aboriginal Oral History. Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney.
Vock, N.T. (1989). Growing Macadamia Nuts in South Queensland. Department of Primary Industry and Queensland Government Press, Brisbane.
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Copyright 1998 The Australian National University
Author: Rebecca Blundell
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Date last Modified 27.10.1998