Macadamias were only introduced in South Africa in the 1960’s, around a 100-years after officially being discovered by Baron Ferdinand von Muller (the father of Australian botany) in 1857, Queensland, Australia. Baron Ferdinand von Muller named the macadamia tree after a colleague and friend Dr John Macadam, after his death. However, before the official discovery of macadamias nuts in 1857 the macadamia tree and its nuts were known by the Australian Aborigines as the Kindal Kindal and they relied on the nuts as a food source during the Australian Winters.
Even though the macadamia tree was officially discovered and named in Australia, the Australian farmers did not immediately cultivate any orchards. Only after seeing the success achieved by Hawaiian farmers, did the Australian farmers start cultivating macadamia orchids in the 1950’s. The Hawaiian farmers did not only plant macadamia trees but they also experimented with many species to eradicate bitterness that was introduced by the M.termifolia as well as selecting a thin shelled macadamia such as the Tetraphylla. It was later discovered that the Tetraphylla shells were hard to crack, and the quality varied considerably among the seedlings. Later on the sugar cane farmers within Hawaii established the M.Integrifolia trees. The specific macadamia species developed into the foundation of macadamia orchards across the world.
Since macadamias were only introduced into the South African agriculture sector in the 1960’s the South African farmers had to quickly establish macadamia orchids to compete with Hawaii and Australia’s already established orchards. Advancing to 1995 Australia finally overtook Hawaii in terms of crop size, placing South Africa in third place just behind Hawaii. Although this might sound like a daunting task to overtake these fierce competitors the South African farmers grew their humble crop of 1211 tons of nut in shell (NIS) in 1991 to an astonishing 59 050 tons of nut in shell (NIS) in 2019. Therefore, placing the South African macadamia industry in the position of being a global competitor alongside Australia. South African macadamias are mainly cultivated in Limpopo, Mpumlanga, Kwazulu-Natal, and the Eastern and Western Cape. However, our Golden Macadamias are grown in orchards found in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, and Kwazulu-Natal.
Macadamias were brought over to South Africa due to their family connection to the Proteaceae family which is related to our national flower the Protea. The farmers argued that if proteas flourished in the South African climate so would Macadamias trees. Macadamias nuts can further be described as the seeds of specific fruit-bearing trees that may have originated from a single Australian tree. Although there is a little twist! When you think of fruit such as: peaches, apricots, and avocados, they have a thin outer peel. Which is sometimes edible and sometimes not, which protects the juicy flesh against dehydration and insects. Inside of the fruity flesh the seeds are found, that are mostly inedible in their raw form. However, tree nuts such as macadamias are covered by an incredibly hard inedible outer shell and the flesh found inside of the hard outer shell is deliciously crunchy and chewy.
Macadamias are the most prestigious nut within the tree nut family. For a variety of reasons including (1) harvesting, (2) nutritional benefits, and (3) taste profile. Macadamia trees take between 4 – 6 years to produce macadamias that can only be harvested once a year. Furthermore, the slow harvesting process also contributes to their value since the farmer needs to wait until the nuts drop in certain varieties or knock them down in hanging varieties. Macadamias are also high in monounsaturated fats as well as naturally low in sugar and carbohydrates with various beneficial nutrients such a antioxidants and minerals. These nutritional benefits have also been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and digestive health. Macadamias also have a significant taste profile, that can be described as an initial crunch when bitten into which turns into a creamy, slightly sweet, taste of a rich and decadent butter-like after taste. Macadamias have been known to pair well with coffee, coconut, lemon, raspberry, chocolate, and mango. They are also used in different application such as: confectionery, baking, snacking, and food service applications.