Nuts are a strange food. They make a fantastic replacement for meat, can be put in a lot more recipes, and are super simple to grow and eat. Yet perhaps because of this we constantly find that they’re so danged expensive in super markets, none more so than the fantastic macadamia nut. For one reason or another, these little beshelled beauties are consistently one of the most expensive nuts you can possibly ever buy, but there has to be a logical reason for that, yes? They must be some sort of powerhouse when it comes to nutrition or have some magical qualities or something like that. Well let’s find out for sure on today’s nutrition facts article spotlighting the macadamia nut!
Macadamia Nut Culture and History
Looks like we’re heading to Australia for this one as macadamia nuts apparently originated in eastern Australia as aborigines ate them long, long before European settlers showed up. Initially they were called “kindals” by early Europeans, though currently you can hear some of the southern species called “boomberas” because it sounds just crazy enough to work.
Of course, Europeans would manage to muck things up when first, Allan Cunningham would “discover” the plants in 1828 and then in 1857, a German0-Australian botanist named Ferdinand von Mueller would officially name the plants macadamias after his friend Dr. John Macadam. Leave it to the scientists to take a perfectly acceptable name like the “kindal” and decide, “Nah, let’s name it after my best buddy!” We were this close to having something like the Steve Nut or the Craig Nut.
But wait! It gets better! While we eat them now like they’re a fine, rich delicacy, it wasn’t until 1858 that the first instance of someone actually eating a macadamia nut was witnessed, and by “first” I mean “non-indigenous person” because otherwise that’d just be silly. At least in the 1860’s, King Jacky of the Logan River clan became the first macadamia nut entrepreneur. Good, score one for the aborigines!
In 1881, macadamia nuts were sent over to Hawaii by a one Mr. William H. Purvis as a simple windbreak for sugar cane (essentially they were used as fences to keep the wind from damaging the sugar), which would eventually blossom into an export that Hawaii would be famous for. It took until the 1950’s for macadamia nuts to really catch on in the US, thanks to the Royal Hawaiian brand, but in 1997 Australia reclaimed its throne as the world’s leading producer of macadamia nuts. Good, glad we got that little battle squared away.
Health Benefits of Macadamia Nuts
So here’s where things get to the point of scratching my head. Remember how I mentioned that macadamia nuts are more expensive than a lot of the most common nuts like almonds and peanuts? Well, apparently that’s not because of their fat content as that’s pretty high even when compared to other nuts, and their protein amount is fairly low, especially when compared to other nuts. However, they do have the highest amount of monounsaturated fat of all nuts, which is a good thing, but also a ton of omega-7 palmitoleic acid, which is essentially saturated fat, which is a bad thing. At least they have a decent amount of fiber, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, selenium, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.
While the nutritional value isn’t stellar like the price would have you believe, they do have other uses, such as poisoning dogs. No wait, that’s a horrible thing! Okay, do not feed macadamia nuts to your dog as they will put your dog through a world of hurt that includes abdominal pain, a general weakness in their muscles, and even their back legs becoming paralyzed for a while. Just, you know, don’t feed dogs macadamia nuts, okay?
Still, the nuts do have real uses outside a tasty treat for humans and humans alone. The oil from macadamia plants is actually very useful in cosmetics, particularly when it comes to skincare products. Oh, and chopped, crushed macadamia nuts look identical to crack cocaine, making them a great use for drug stings. Okay, maybe macadamia nuts being comparable to crack could explain their high price, but no, I’m still stumped.
Eating More Macadamia Nuts
When it comes to finding more ways to eat macadamia nuts, the biggest issue will in acquiring the money to continually spend on more nuts rather than finding recipes to put them in. They’re perfectly tasty on their own either salted or plain as they have a flavor that’s rather their own, but usually you’ll find them baked into cookies with white chocolate chips.
Of course, cookies aren’t where you have to stop as you can mix them into pretty much any baked good you can think of, plus a handful of “healthy” foods like salads, couscous, ravioli, and soup. Plus since they’re nuts they go easily with pastas, cereals, ice cream, and anything where a nut topping would be very welcome.
But again, I keep wondering why exactly macadamia nuts are consistently so darned expensive. They’re good, but they’re not that good. I’ve seen them for over $10 per pound, which compared to something like an almond for $4 a pound or peanuts for under $2 a pound seems like extortion. Oh well, if people find the price fair, then it stays. Consumer demand dictates what things cost and I guess we decided macadamia nuts cost a bunch.
Don’t let my penny-pinching attitude besmirch the good name of macadamia nuts though! Are you a fan, despite the premium cost? Let me know what sort of recipes you typically cook up when you have a whole bunch of macadamia nuts just lying around. And now of course I’ve given myself a hankering for macadamia nuts. Please excuse me.