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The Macadamia nut tree belongs to the family Proteaceae. It is native to the coastal rain forest areas of Australia. Macadamia seeds were first imported into Hawaii in 1882 by William Purvis and macadamias have since become the most important tree crop in Hawaii. Total acres in macadamia production is 20,200 acres and Hawaii’s macadamia industry is valued at $175 million annually. Major production of macadamia is on the island of Hawaii (Big Island). Edible nuts are from two species of the genus Macadamia: Macadamia integrifolia (smooth-shell type) and Macadamia tetraphylla (rough-shell type). The macadamia nut industry in Hawaii, Australia, and many other producing areas is based primarily on the smooth-shell type. Considerable research has gone into selection and breeding of the best cultivars for Hawaii. More than 100,000 seedlings have been screened to produce the 7 perfect cultivars grown in Hawaii. Both species are attractive, evergreen trees, which with age can attain a height of 60 feet and a spread of 40 feet. They have shiny, green, holly-like foliage. The small, perfect, cream-colored flowers are borne in axillary racemes to 12 inches long consisting of several hundred flowers. Although there are a large number of flowers in each raceme, usually not more than about 10 nuts set and mature.

In Hawaii, commercial orchards are planted with grafted seedlings. Macadamia nut trees can start bearing a small crop in the fifth year after planting, and full production is reached in 12 to 15 years. The trees require 120 inches of rainfall a year and can be grown from sea level to an elevation of 2500 feet. Macadamia nuts are harvested manually after they have fallen. In Hawaii, the nuts typically drop 8 to 9 months of the year from May to December. The husk and the shell accounts for most of the macadamia nuts weight. Husk is about 50% of the whole nut. The average kernel recovery rate from “in-shell nuts” (without the husk) is about 25 to 35%. That means the kernel is only 15% of the whole macadamia nut.

Macadamias can be grown successfully on a variety of Hawaiian soils ranging from loose volcanic lava soils to well-drained, lateritic clays. Fertilization (3 to 4 times a year) is necessary for good production and growth. All the husks, leaves and trimmings are used to replace and supplement the soil nutrients in our Big Island Farm orchard.

The processing of Macadamia Nuts is done differently from farm to farm and from company to company. At Big Island Mac Nuts the processing of the in-shell nuts is very labor intensive and most of the work is done by hand. The following paragraphs will explain how we implement the various processing steps in the order of their occurrence.

On our 64 acre Big Island Farm we harvest the nuts once a month. The nuts are not picked directly from the tree. As with many other nut types, they tree-ripen and then fall to the ground. All the nuts are then “picked” by hand from the ground. The nuts are gathered in bags weighing approximately 45 pounds each and brought to our husking facility, which is located within the orchard.

De-husking or husking means to peel off the outer fibrous green shell. Husking is done by machine and should be done within 24 hours of harvest to prevent heat respiration and molding. During this step the nuts are sorted manually. Bad nuts are discarded, and nuts which may be unacceptable for human or pet consumption are mulched, composted and introduced back into the orchard. Any nuts remaining un-husked are returned to the husking machine for a second time around.

When the nuts are first harvested, they have a high moisture content (up to 30%, depending on the weather) and the kernel itself fills the entire shell. By drying the nuts for 2-4 weeks in open-air, well ventilated bins, the kernel starts to shrink away from the inside of the shell and becomes loose, although the moisture content is still near 12-14%. For a drier nut, with a moisture content below 10%, we dehumidify the nuts with no heat involved after the 6 week air drying process.

Quality assurance is of utmost importance to us, however we cannot see inside the shell. For every order over 10 pounds we add half a pound (about 30 nuts) per box free of charge to cover any poor quality nuts. If you feel that the extra nuts are not sufficient to cover any spoilage you may find, please contact us.

Several time tested methods of storing the nuts that we know of:

1. You can hang them in their mesh bags in a cool, dry place. You can store the nuts like this for a few
months.

2. Freezing is a better way of storing when it is done right (especially if you are living in a hot humid climate). If you freeze the nuts, you should only take out what you need for the day. The thawing process builds up moisture inside the shell and the nuts will begin to mold within a couple of days. Freezing keeps the product fresher and you also do not have to worry about any insects getting to the nuts.

The nuts can be cracked by carefully tightening them in a bench vice or striking them with a hammer after placing them in a sack or clear plastic bag. Here is a link to a video of how to crack mac nuts using a ratcheting PVC pipe cutter Click Here There are, also, specialty nut crackers available from our store … Click Here.

*Humans crack open the nut and then eat the inside kernel so it’s up to you if you want to wash off the shell. Birds put the nuts in their mouths to crack them open so we recommend to always wash off the shell first.*

*Feeding nuts to Hyacinth Macaws* No pesticides are used on our farms Macadamia Nut trees or nuts, and at the time of shipping the nuts are thoroughly inspected for quality and only the best of what is available is included in your order. That being said, we recommend, as with any food item that does not come in a sealed package, such as an apple, that you inspect and wash the nuts right before giving them to your bird, and do not let the nut shells come in contact with your birds water source. While the chances of your order coming into contact with any outside factors and becoming contaminated before you receive it are slim, the safety of your beloved pets is paramount and we would hate for your pet to get sick from something getting on the shell and then going in its mouth.

*Moldy Nuts* If you find an occasional moldy nut it might be one that was not picked from the orchard quickly enough. Either the pickers did not see it on the ground, or it was in a grassy area or something similar. A few moldy nuts in your order are possible and should be covered by the extra half pound of nuts that we include in every box over 10 pounds. If you have more than a few moldy nuts this was most likely caused by moisture build up in the shell. For example: If the nuts had been sitting in the box in the sun somewhere at the post office or in a car and then you get them and put them in the fridge that would make the nuts sweat and moisture would build up inside the shell. The excess moisture will then make the kernel mold. Also, any extreme temperature changes will cause condensation and this could cause the kernel to mold. So be sure to avoid rapid temperature change. Nuts, in general, contain lots of oil. Macadamia Nuts, in particular, contain more oils than most other nuts; therefore care should be taken when storage is required in order to prevent the oils from becoming rancid over time. To avoid any problems created by long-term storage, you might seriously consider our “Subscription” program. This is a very good way to assure that your nuts are always fresh; particularly the in-shell nuts. It works like this: place your subscription order for, say, 17 lbs to delivered once every 2 months -or- 51 lbs every 3 months -or- some other quantity and shipping period that suits your special needs. We can even ship nuts to you once every month, if that is your wish. You are placed into our shipping schedule, which assures the availability of fresh nuts when you want them, and it locks-in the price for a period of one year. If you have a lively retail/wholesale business or a very hungry bird, you might want to consider this program.

If you prefer your nuts roasted, here is how to do it: Avoid roasting small pieces and whole kernel at the same time, they roast unevenly. * Preheat oven to 225 – 250 degrees F. * Place the nuts in a shallow pan. Roast pieces that are similar in size. * If you want to salt them, now is the time to do this (salt or salty water). * Put pan in oven and roast for 10 to 15 minutes or longer, stirring occasionally. (you may also roast them in a skillet on the stovetop.) * Monitor the process closely and remove them from the oven as soon as the browning process begins. Allow to cool. Enjoy.

If you want to dry In-Shell Macadamia Nuts at home in your oven, do this: Use the lowest warm setting on your oven, or a food dehydrator at (the “nut” setting, if there is one) around 105 degrees F for two to three days. Test the nuts by cracking them open. The shell will become brittle and is easier to crack. If the kernel is still chewy, give them another 24 hours. When they are done, they should be crunchy when biting into them.