Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut History
The Macadamia tree was named in 1857 by the European botanist Ferdinand von Mueller, after a friend, Australian scientist John Macadam. The trees were first brought to Hawaii in the 1870’s from their native home, Australia, where they were a popular food source among the aborigines.
The macadamia tree was originally favored as an ornamental plant in Hawaii, not primarily as a source for food. The tree is a gorgeous evergreen with leaves that look a bit like holly. The macadamia tree sports white flowers that bloom throughout the year, and each spray of flowers can produce up to 10 nuts.
Ernest Van Tassel, was the first to capitalize on the nut’s commercial value in Hawaii, planting his first commercial orchard in 1921. You can visit his historic home known as Nutridge, if you’re visiting Honolulu. It didn’t take long for others to follow suit, and many sugar plantation owners, looking to diversify out of the waning sugar industry began planting macadamia orchards.
The Mauna Loa Plantation was established in 1949 near Kea’au. Its first commercial crop was produced in 1956. After the Mauna Loa brand was launched they then purchased and converted 5 additional sugar plantations into macadamia plantations.
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation Today
Today the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation, leads the Hawaii MacNut industry, with over 10,000 acres of orchards and more than a million trees. The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut plant processes an astonishing 180,000 pounds of nuts (in the shell) daily and packages around 48,000 pounds of kernel from the nuts.
Retailing for upward of $25 a pound, macadamias are among the world’s most expensive nuts. Macadamia trees have a very specific growing region that is limited by temperature and moisture and it takes five to seven years for a macadamia tree to bear fruit and 15 years to reach full production. The nuts ripen continuously throughout the summer and fall, so each tree must be harvested five or six separate times. All of these factors add to the cost of the finished product.
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation is also known for its efforts to produce renewable energy to power its Hilo processing facility. They achieve this by burning macadamia waste products and channeling the steam generated by the factory’s nut drying tanks. Their renewable bio fuel covers up to 60% of the facility’s electric needs, reducing the company’s reliance on traditional energy. Also, to further reduce reliance on non-organic fertilizer, macadamia husks are composted and used as organic fertilizer in the orchards.
A tour of Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation’s flagship location offers delicious free samples of macadamia nuts in several flavors. The tour here is short and self-guided. You can watch the employees preparing the macadamia nuts while a video explains the process. No charge to look and sample, delicious and fun!
16-701 Macadamia Road
Hilo, HI 96720