At the heart of eastern Australian rainforests, a tiny national icon grows. The macadamia nut has become a valuable commodity in Australian agriculture, with commercial production servicing the food, health and nutrition, beauty and tourism industries. Macadamias are Australia’s third largest horticultural enterprise and the only native food crop with commercial demand on an international scale.
The nut’s scientific name Macadamia integrifolia is quite a mouthful considering the small kernels it describes. The macadamia was named after the chemist, John Macadam, who allegedly never tasted the nut but was nominated as its namesake by the Australian botanist Ferdinand von Mueller. Depending on the locality, macadamia nuts may be referred to as the bush nut, Queensland nut, bauple nut, maroochi nut, nut oak or queen of nuts. Australian Aborigines, the first appreciators of macadamia, know the plant as gyndl, jindilli or boombera.
The macadamia is a tropical evergreen species, which grows to about 18 meters in height. The trees support drooping racemes of white or pink flowers that take several years to propagate. Because of the international popularity of the nut and national significance of the industry, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is continually looking to improve crop yields, fruit quality and harvest technology.
Macadamia nuts are renowned for their nutritional value. Rich in dietary fiber, calcium, protein, vitamin E, and B group vitamins, the nuts contain no cholesterol. Macadamias contain 78 percent monosaturated fat; almost double that of almonds, and one of the highest density lipoprotein oils available. Studies have shown that macadamia consumption can improve oxidative stress, lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Australian Aborigines used macadamia oil as body paint and massage the oil into the skin as a means of rejuvination. The cosmetic benefits of macadamia oil are still celebrated in the health and beauty industry, where it is used as a botanical alternative to mink oil in skincare products. Macadamia oil is also promoted as a healthy substitute for olive oil in the food industry, which remains the primary market for macadamia products. Traditionally, Indigenous Australians would roast, grind and soak macadamias to reduce bitterness. In the Australian lexicon, they are referred to as ‘bush tucker’. Today, the nuts are used widely in cooking and can also be eaten raw. The subtle flavor and smooth texture of the nuts make them a versatile and popular ingredient in cakes, ice cream, salads, pesto and muesli.
This little Aussie nut makes a perfect addition to the biscuit recipe below.
Recipe: Aunt Ivy’s Raw Macadamia and Goji Berry Cookies (Recipe credit: Foodista)
1 cup raw macadamias
3 tablespoons goji berries
2 tablespoons cold pressed coconut oil
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
3 tablespoons raw agave
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1. Mix all ingredients in a food processor
2. Form into cookies 1/2 inch thick
3. Dehydrate for approximately 15 hours