Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Macadamia nuts: Harvesting, de-husking, cracking, eating.

I now know why macadamia nuts are so expensive. There's a macadamia nut pasture in the backyard of a farm on the Big Island, and I got to see what work goes behind macadamia nut processing (at least the small-scale, by-hand type).

Enter the macadamia nut pasture...

This is how the nuts look on the tree. Most I spotted by themselves or in twos, but a few were in big beautiful clusters such as these.

If they're low enough and you're not too short, you can pick by hand. This is rarely the case though – for most I used a macadamia fruit picker (not pictured, but imagine long wooden handle with something that looks like half a bird cage attached at the end).

The green ones are younger; the brown ones are older, but you don't separate them by color. You separate the ones that have cracks from the ones that are still whole.

For the ones that are whole (they might be green or brown), you need to "age" them before you can eat them, which mostly means getting them as dry as possible.

To do that, you can layer the nuts in a bin between layers of cloth (to take out the moisture), and leave them there for weeks until the husks are starting to crack. At that point, there will be some compost in the bin (and a ton of bugs too...there were actually millipedes and earwigs in there...I somehow managed to restrain myself from screaming/sobbing. Aghhh I guess that's how you know they're organic).

Here are ones that have cracked:

Once they've cracked, their outer husk is easy to remove.

And on in the inside is a smooth round seed:

Once you have the seed, you can now use the macadamia nut cracker (pictured in the lower left here):

If they're still "wet," the edible portion will stick to the shell, and it's very hard to remove. The little shards can still be roasted and eaten though.

If they've dried sufficiently, the inner "nut" will have shrunk in size so that it doesn't stick to the shell, and comes out easily.

The taste of raw macadamia nut is pretty incredible. It wasn't at all what I expected – it tasted like mature coconut meat: crunchy, fresh, and slightly sweet.

The nuts of my labor:


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