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February 2005


By Rochelle delaCruz

You know which nuts we’re talking about. After all, this is a Hawai`i newspaper, and any connection between Hawai`i and nuts, can only mean MACADAMIA! I wonder how this happened… and why not the coconut? Macadamia nut trees weren’t growing in the Islands when the early Polynesians arrived nor did they bring them along. But today, say “macadamia nuts” and everyone thinks: Hawai`i .

The smooth-shell madacamia nut (Macadamia integrifolia) comes from Australia , and while various people are credited with introducing it to Hawai`i , most sources agree that it had arrived by 1890. These nuts grow on trees that took so well to Hawai`i ’s climate that by the turn of the last century, Round Top in Honolulu had 2,000 trees and 6,000 were planted in Kona , Hawai`i . (In Gardens of Hawaii by Marie C. Neal, Bishop Museum Press.) Today, all of the nuts in Hawai`i come from the Big Island (no joke intended.)

There are currently around seven hundred macadamia nut farms on the island and my friend Kathy has one outside of Kea`au, a few miles from Hilo. When nuts fall to the ground, it’s the sign that they are ripe and now the picking begins. While the big farms might have serious machinery to gather the nuts and sort them from small lava rocks and other debris, smaller farms do their picking by hand, or should I say by knee. I always talked big about wanting to help my friend pick so last year when there was a bumper crop, she took me up on my offer and I spent a couple of days at her farm crawling around on my knees, up one row and down the next, reaching over and grabbing all the nuts within arm’s reach. Even with knee pads on, it’s back-breaking work that gave me new respect for my friend’s commitment to that magnificent nut!

The next time you eat macadamia nuts, I want you to remember that trees take at least seven years before they start bearing fruit and my macadamia nut farmer friend had to wait patiently before she could even pick one nut! And when you hear how much macadamia nuts cost per pound, don’t even blink. Just think about me and Kathy, crawling around Kea`au on our knees (and we ain’t no spring chickens!)

A warning to visitors who are thinking of saving money by buying those bags of unshelled macadamia nuts in farmers’ markets: the shell of the macadamia nut is the hardest of all nut shells and requires 300 pounds per square inch to crack. I have some personal experience with unshelled nuts, a hammer and a vise and let me warn you that they just don’t do the job. It’s probably best to leave the cracking to the experts.

So there it is: everything you wanted to know about macadamia nuts in a nutshell. (That was too easy.)

For an audio version of Nuts, click here.


With Valentine’s Day in February, we wanted to give you recipes for some truly decadent macadamia nut desserts, guaranteed to dazzle and delight. However, the Northwest Hawai`i Times is not responsible for any wild and wacky behavior that may result from the consumption of the world’s most sensuous nut.

Chocolate Tart with Crunchy Macadamia Nut Crust

¾ cup lightly salted macadamia nuts
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
11 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons cold water
4 whole eggs
¾ lb. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
Whipped cream and chopped macadamia nuts

Place macadamia nuts, flour, sugar, salt and 3Tablespoons of butter in food processor. Pulse on and off until small clumps form. With the motor running, add the cold water and continue processing until the mixture forms a ball. Remove dough and dust with flour. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425º F. On a floured board, roll out dough to fit a 9-inch pie pan. Fold dough in half and lift into pie pan. Unfold and press into pan; cut off any excess. Prick dough all over. Bake for 10 minutes. Brush with one egg white and bake for 3 more minutes. Remove and cool.

Lower oven to 350º F. Place chocolate and remaining butter in a double boiler. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. When the water begins to boil, turn off heat, cover pot and leave on stove for 10 minutes. Uncover and whisk chocolate mixture until smooth. Remove pot from double boiler and set aside until warm. Whisk in remaining eggs one at a time until well blended.

Pour mixture into crust and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until filling is set and crust is brown. Serve cold with whipped cream and chopped macadamia nuts.


Macadamia Nut Mauna Kea Snow Balls

(Yields 4 to 5 dozen)

½ lb (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cups honey roasted macadamia nuts, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Cream butter and 2 cups powdered sugar together. Add remaining ingredients until a ball forms. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until bottom is golden brown. While the cookies are still hot, remove them from sheet and roll in remaining powdered sugar. Cool, then eat.

These “Mac-alicious” recipes come from the kitchens of Island Princess. For more recipes and information, call (808) 839-5222 ext. 207, or email: info@islandprincesshawaii.com

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