It is in Australia that the macadamia plant was discovered, and the history of the word reflects the history of the country. British botanist Alan Cunningham noted it in his travel diaries of the 1820s, but it was only 30 years later that the German-Australian botanist, Ferdinand von Mueller, named the species after his friend, the Scots-Australian botanist John Macadam. And so it is fitting that Australia is now the world’s largest commercial producer, generating approximately 40% of global macadamia production amounting to roughly 100,000 tonnes.
In Britain the nut has not become popular. Each year 60,000 tons of cashews are imported, but only 700-800 tons of macadamias. This may be due to cost. The lengthy harvesting time and the sophisticated machinery required to crack the shell make it a luxury item that can cost up to $40 per kilo. Compared with the humble peanut which can be bought for $3 per kilo or less, it doesn’t look like a bargain.
So what is special about macadamia nuts? They are extremely high in fat – 718 calories per 100 grams – making tiramisu look like a diet product! But eating them actually lowers cholesterol levels. And the benefits of the macadamia plant aren’t confined to the nuts. Macadamia oil is the chief ingredient in some of the most sought-after skin and hair care products. This product may not be cheap but it certainly has its advantages.