We have always thought one way to meet people at a party would be to stand in a corner holding a bowl of macadamia nuts. We’ve never put it to the test but have seen guests head for the macadamias even before they go to the open bar.
Macadamia nuts, once called “Queensland nuts,” originated in the rain forests of Queensland, Australia, and are one of the few Australian foods with a worldwide reputation. Macadamia trees, which bloom year round, were discovered by two botanists in the 19th century and named after a friend, Dr. John Macadam. According to historians, the nuts didn’t come into the picture until a small boy in Brisbane decided to taste one, and the rest, as they say, is history. Although macadamias were grown on a small scale in Australia, the breakthrough in commercial production came around 1882, when they were introduced in Hawaii. With perfect growing conditions, new strains were developed, and now nearly all the world’s macadamia nuts come from Hawaii.
In our kitchen, an open jar of macadamia nuts doesn’t last long. What we don’t eat right out of the jar is tossed in leafy salads or sprinkled over vegetables. One of our favorite recipes, Chocolate Macadamia Nut Bars, is from Cathy Haber, at the Aloha Angel Cafe on Hawaii’s Big Island. A cross between a confection and a cookie, the bars start with a brown sugar crust that’s sprinkled with macadamias and covered with a buttery caramel. When they come out of the oven, they’re sprinkled with chocolate, which melts to form the top layer. Yum!
—By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.