The Macadamia Story
MACADAMIA FAST FACTS
As Queen of the tree nuts, macadamias are delicious and nutritious with an interesting history.
Indigenous names for the macadamia include ‘Kindal Kindal’, ‘Baupal’ or ‘Boombera’
In the 1900s, a group of American horticulturists transported macadamia seeds and successfully grew them in Hawaii
In the 1960s, Australians and South Africans realised the potential of macadamias and began local cultivation
Approximately 50% of the world’s macadamia production is now grown in Australia and South Africa
Macadamia trees grow best is sub-tropical climates and rich well-drained soils
Macadamia trees are produced by grafting a selected variety onto rootstock seedlings, a process carried out in specialist nurseries. It takes approximately two years to produce a fully grafted macadamia tree that is ready for planting in an orchard. It then takes a further five to seven years from planting an orchard to harvesting the first commercially viable crop. During this time, and to ensure future profitability, the young trees need regular care with ample water, fertiliser and pruning.
In Australia, between 250 to 300 trees are planted per hectare to create the neat plantations that are the hallmark of the industry. Mature macadamia trees can grow to 12 to 15 metres; they have dark, shiny leaves and bear sprays of long, delicate, sweet-smelling white blossoms, called racemes.
The first flowering occurs in early Spring, with small nutlets developing shortly after. These nutlets grow and develop through Spring and Summer – ripening in early autumn. Each spray of 40 to 50 flowers produces from 2 to 15 nutlets, and by early autumn, large clusters of plump green nuts are very visible.
Once nuts have reached full size, the shell begins to harden. This happens during December and early January. After the shell has hardened, the oil accumulation phase begins. This phase lasts for about two months. Mature nuts begin to fall in late Autumn and continue to come down over the next six months.
Macadamia farmers harvest the nuts after they have fallen to the ground, completing a harvest round every two to four weeks.
Harvested nuts have a fibrous outer layer called “husk”, which must be removed before the nut is sent to the processor. Farmers do this by using a machine called a dehusker.
Once the nuts are dehusked, the farmer inspects them and removes any defective nuts from the batch.
The sorted nuts are then transported to a processing factory, where it is weighed, sampled and tested for quality. Growers are paid for the crop based on the kernel’s weight and quality.
During the off-season, farmers spread organic, rich material under their trees to act as a mulch and natural fertiliser. This mulch maintains a healthy soil environment and promotes tree root growth to assist in sustainable production.
PROCESSING & SALE
Nut-in-shell is dried under controlled conditions to stabilise the kernel. After drying, a specially designed cracker breaks the rock-hard shell. Both shell fragments and kernel travel through an air separation system and through modern, hi-tech, electronic colour sorters which separate the shell fragments from the kernel. These sorters differentiate between the shell’s dark brown colour and the kernel’s creamy colour and remove the shell fragments with a burst of compressed air.
A second colour sort and a final hand sorting inspection are carried out to remove the reject kernel and grade the remaining kernel by size and quality. The macadamia kernel is categorised into ‘Styles’ ranging from 0 to 7, representing the kernel pieces’ sizes and shapes. Style 0 is a large whole kernel, Style 1 is a smaller whole kernel, Style 4 is a half kernel and Styles 5 to 7 relate to various sizes of kernel chips and small pieces.
Once sorted into styles, the kernel is nitrogen flushed and vacuum packed into foil-lined bags and placed inside sturdy cartons, packed for sale. These cartons are stored in a climate-controlled warehouse, ready for dispatch to food manufacturers and wholesalers or further processed and packaged in retail-ready packs for sale to consumers via the retailers.