Macadamia nuts are rich, flavorful nuts native to the continent of Australia, although they are also cultivated in Hawaii. These nuts made an important traditional food source for native Australians, who called them Jindilli or Kindal Kindal nuts. They are almost always found shelled, which means that they should be carefully stored so that they do not become rancid. Several suppliers also ship these nuts directly to consumers.
The macadamia genus includes eight species, two of which produce nuts which are a viable food source. John Macadam was the first to describe the genus, and by scientific convention, it was named for him. This genus of flowering trees is found in the family Proteaceae, and most of them actually produce poisonous or inedible nuts. Macadamia trees with food value have been cultivated for over one hundred years, and several farmers have produced distinct cultivars with unique traits such as particularly large or flavorful nuts.
Aboriginal Australians made macadamia nuts an important part of their diets, since the nuts are high in protein, along with an assortment of vitamins and minerals. Early explorers in the region were introduced to the nuts, which they called Queensland or Bush nuts, in a reference to the region in which they were found. Macadamia nuts quickly became a popular food item, and several specimen trees were imported to Hawaii for cultivation in the 1880s. The nuts are now closely associated with Hawaii, with several macadamia producers heavily marketing their products as quintessentially Hawaiian.
The nuts grow in extremely hard kernels which are very difficult to crack open. This is one of the reasons why macadamia nuts are so costly, since they are challenging to shell. Once cracked, the shell reveals an ivory colored kernel which is rich in oil with a buttery, creamy flavor. The nuts may be eaten out of hand, roasted, or ground into nut butter. Many people pair macadamia nuts with white chocolate in confections, and they can also be found in nut mixes and other desserts.
Because macadamia nuts are so high in fat, you should refrigerate them for the longest shelf life. If kept at room temperature, the nuts may go rancid. Try to use them quickly in either case, as they generally taste better fresh. Toasting also highlights their flavor; to toast macadamia nuts, either roast them in a heavy pan or bake them, turning them occasionally until they turn golden brown.