Macadamia nuts grow on large bushy trees which start producing after four or five years. The trees will be in full production after six years and will continue indefinitely.
There are several major varieties of macadamia nuts including Cates, Beaumonts, James and others.
Depending on the variety, the nuts may drop when they are ready for harvesting, or you may need to pick them off the trees. Cates will split the outer hull on the nut and drop. This normally will start in late October and continue through to the end of January.
Harvest (pick up) nuts frequently. This will vary with weather conditions. Most experienced California growers recommend harvesting at least every two weeks when its sunny and dry, and every week when its wet and damp.
De-husk nuts within 24 hours after harvest. Leaving the husk on for some time causes mold and increases processing time as the husk tends to harden.
Carefully sort and dry nuts to minimize quality losses. Gold Crown Macadamia pays significantly more for premium nuts (35% crack-out and above).
Monitor and eradicate pests and diseases to ensure effective control. Controlling pests and diseases reduces crop loss.
Fine tune crop nutrition through soil and leaf analyses. Better nutrition results in a greater percentage of nut meat (higher crack out).
An Australian study done by Ian McConachie, managing director of Suncoast Gold Macadamias, found that implementation of a quality assurance system emphasizing improved techniques for crop nutrition, protection, harvesting, and sorting resulted in a higher crack-out percentage and higher net return to growers.
After considering the extra costs (fertilizer, labor, etc.), the return to growers was 35% higher with the techniques to improve quality.
Pick up the nuts and husk them as soon as possible after they drop. The husks hold moisture which, if not removed will cause the nut meat to become rancid and make the nut unmarketable. The nuts then need to be air-dried in shade for at least two weeks. During this drying process the moisture content of the nut meat is reduced and the nut becomes firm. We encourage all growers interested in becoming members to contact our warehouse at (800)344-NUTS or (760)745-4396 or by e-mail. We will gladly send you a membership form and more information, or you can complete the online membership form by clicking the AppForm button.
The nuts then need to be checked for quality. It is important that any nuts that are obviously not salable be removed before delivery to the warehouse. This includes any with worm holes, cracks, discolored shells, etc. Also remove any nuts that are less than a 1/2 inch in diameter.
The nuts need to go through a second drying process before they are ready to be cracked. At the warehouse we put them into our walk-in dryer for 2-3 days at 105-110 degrees F. You can use a dehydrator or your oven set at the lowest temperature for a couple days. Test them after two days by cracking a few. If the shell is brittle and cracks cleanly, they are dry.
We will not accept a crackout of less than 28% nor do we accept a crackout with more than 10% bad nuts. (If we take a sample of 20 nuts and 3 are bad, the nuts are processed as culls.
We then oven dry the nuts and check the crack-out (weight of nutmeats compared to total weight) before they are sold. We take more than one sample when in doubt.
All nuts are placed in a pool for the year they are delivered to the warehouse. As the crop in the pool is sold, we pay a partial payment (currently around $1.00/pound) to the growers and the remainder at the end of the pool year. We do not make payment upon delivery, only after the nuts are sold and we have completed the process. For the past four years we have paid our growers $1.90/pound for premium nuts and around $1.40/pound for regular nuts based on the crackout.
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