Origin and History
Macadamia trees, with their glossy, evergreen leaves, are native to the subtropical rainforests of Australia. They were called kindal kindal trees by the Aborigines, who supplemented their diet with their nuts. Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, one of Australia’s most important 19th century botanists, cataloged the tree in 1857 and named it after his friend, John Macadam, M.D., a lecturer at the Philosophical Institute in Victoria, Australia.
Macadamia orchards were first established in Australia, to cultivate the trees for ornamental use, but soon the rich flavor of the nut was discovered and by 1856 the tree was being cultivated for its nuts. In 1882, seeds were planted in Hawaii, where the tree grows well. Australia still leads the world in macadamia production, followed by Hawaii, South Africa, Kenya and Guatemala. The tree will grow in most coastal subtropical regions, so plantings exist in California as well.
Macadamia nuts may have a relatively high amount of fat — constituting 83 percent of their calories — but this fat is healthy monounsaturated fat. A one-ounce serving of dried macadamias (about a dozen nuts, more than most people will eat at a time) contains 199 calories, 2 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbohydrates and 21 grams of fat.