Originating in Australia, the first macadamia tree was planted on the Big Island in 1881 by William Purvis. The Jordan brothers followed up with their own trees in 1892. Known for their sweet, rich flavor, macadamia nuts quickly became popular among sugar barons who came to the Islands to start the sugar industry.
Ernest Van Tassel, of the Hawai’i Macadamia Nut Company, began commercial planting of the nuts in 1921. After facing many adversities in growing healthy trees, Van Tassel was finally able to begin processing the nuts in 1934.
Fun fact: on average, modern macadamia trees take 5-8 years to fruit.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t until the late-1940’s that some major players of Hawaii’s “Big Five” companies, who dominated Hawaii’s economy through sugar production, started to take notice of the macadamia nut game. In 1946, Castle & Cooke, renowned as owners of the Dole Pineapple Company, planted their first orchard, which would later produce the macadamia nuts of Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. Soon after, C. Brewer and Co. Ltd. began investing in macadamia orchards, and would later buy Castle & Cooke’s orchard in 1976, at which point they started marketing under the well-known Mauna Loa brand.
Today, 90% of all the macadamia nuts are harvested in Hawaii.
Macadamia nuts are one of the most popular items that people take back to the mainland and are truly a local treasure. How do you prefer your macadamia nuts? Plain, spiced, chocolate covered or something else? Leave a comment below or hit us up on Twitter @HIOceanProject and Instagram @hawaiioceanproject