A Katikati orchard is now growing and processing macadamia nuts
Macadamias are a native of Australia although they’re also grown in Hawaii, South Africa, Kenya, Guatemala, Brazil and of course New Zealand. Grower Wyn Daniell says the trees are related to Rewarewa. The nut was named after an Australian chemist and politician called John Macadam. They are healthy source of protein and mono-unsaturated fats, are rich in oleic fatty acid, a good source of fibre, rich in antioxidants, B complex vitamins. They also contain thiamin, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iron.
Twelve years into operating their property, the Daniell’s became apprehensive about having a monoculture and set about to diversify. The macadamia’s “Wonder Food” reputation, coupled with their high value and robust shelf life without refrigeration influenced them to grow macadamias, despite not having eaten them. Their conversion of an area of their orchard began in 1992 with the purchase of root stock that were grafted in 1993 and planted out in 1994 amongst the existing vines, which were then progressively cut back over the next 10 years before the macadamias produced.
The trees are usually propagated by grafting. They don’t produce commercial quantities for at least 10 years but once they’re established, they may continue bearing for over 100 years.
Climate can be tough on the trees. The young plants are very frost tender so during establishment the Daniells needed to cover the trees when there was a frost risk.
There are 940 trees planted in a 2.5 ha area of the orchard. Wyn notes that the Australian growers are surprised to see such dense plantings but the Daniell’s yields are very good.
The orchard has regular rainfall so there’s no irrigation. Soil is naturally high in fertility so there’s minimal use of inorganic fertiliser. Wyn says there’s very low pest levels so they use insecticide only in response to a specific need. The orchard is GlobalGap certified.
Nuts are harvested off the ground. They don’t chemically induce nut drop. Wyn says that the process has been gradually mechanized to try and take some of the back breaking work out of the process.
The hand sweepers that were originally used to harvest the nuts are now complemented by a 2.4m mechanical version.
The Daniells have four main macadamia cultivars which mean they can harvest for roughly nine months of the year. Varieties include P39, GT207, GT 205 and A38. Some of these varieties are apparently from around 300 selected nuts brought into New Zealand in the 1970s and planted at Woodhill Forest north of Auckland.
Harvest starts around the end of March and finishes in December.
In addition to the variety selection, it is critical that the nuts are harvested regularly, and de-husked and dried promptly after harvest to get a premium flavour. The husks are recycled as mulch for the avocados and the dry shells as fuel for the drier.
The removal of the shell is done off the farm and the kernels come back to the property, graded and sized in nitrogen flushed bulk bags.
Harbourside produce a range of products including plain kernels and roasted and flavoured roasted nuts. The ubiquitous chocolate coated nut is still made, as well as a range of seasonings, oils and a liqueur.
Originally the couple sold through a variety of resellers and the internet. As the crop increased, the Tauranga Farmers Market and Howick Markets have been added as important outlets.