Australia’s indigenous inhabitants had very good reasons for being nomadic. One was ‘Kindal Kindal’, an imposing tree with shiny dark green leaves and sweet-smelling blossoms that grew on the eastern strip of the Great Dividing Range. The Aborigines would congregate wherever the tree grew, to feast on its edible nuts which first had to be removed from hard, woody shells.
They regarded the nuts not only as a delicacy with rich nutritional value, but a source of valuable medical and cosmetic properties.
In the 1850′s, botanists Ferdinand von Mueller and Walter Hill discovered two species of these trees growing in the Queensland rainforests. The named the smooth-shelled macadamia ‘Macadamia Integrifolia’ and the rough-shelled species ‘Macadamia Tetraphylla’. The genus ‘Macadamia’ acknowledged a prominent scientist of the time, Dr John McAdam.
Macadamias, then, had both a tradition and a name, but their commercial potential was neglected to such a degree that the first commercial plantations were established in Hawaii from seeds sent from Australia.
Australia left it until the second half of the 20th Century to recognise the value of the macadamia as a horticultural industry…and by this time much of the world knew the product as ‘Hawaiian nuts’. However, enthusiasm and confidence were such that it lost little time making up lost ground. Today, Australia enjoys its standing as the world’s top producer, proving that its own nut, grown in its natural habitat, is superior to anything else in the world.
Ensuring a Bountiful Harvest
Young macadamia trees produce limited nuts, reaching their full fruiting potential about 5-7 years after planting.
In Australia, flowering begins around September and the bees, attracted by the heady perfume of the blossoms, arrive to help pollinate the orchard, playing an important part in the life cycle of the macadamia nut.
When pollination has been successful, nuts start to develop, although in the early stage they will not be visible to the eye. Nut set can first be seen from early December when the swelling is about the size of a pin head and will remain on the tree until the nut reaches maturity, when it falls to the ground ready for harvest from March of the following year.
Harvest time is a very busy time. As soon as the first fully mature macadamia nuts fall to the ground, mechanical harvesters collect them as quickly as possible to ensure their quality and freshness is maintained at a premium.