Hawaiian tourists usually load up on a few common souvenirs: leis, Aloha wear (the colorful shirts and muumuus most folks buy at Hilo Hattie’s), Kona coffee – and of course, macadamia nuts.
Macadamia trees grow in a number of countries. You’ll find them in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and even in a few continental United States like California and Florida. But most commercial macadamia production occurs in Australia (where the tree originated) and on the big island of Hawaii, which has a climate perfect for the crop.
That’s why delicious macadamia nuts seem like such a novelty to tourists. And it’s why chocolate-covered macadamias are one of Hawaii’s top-selling souvenirs, despite macadamias’ deserved reputation as the most expensive nuts in the world. (1)
There are other terrific products made from the macadamia nut (which like the Brazil nut, is actually a seed and not a nut). Those products include macadamia nut coffee and somewhat rare, but yummy, macadamia nut honey. A terrific wine is also produced in Hawaii, and it’s made from macadamia nut honey as well.
Don’t confuse macadamia honey with other varieties native to Hawaii, like Wilelaiki honey (also known as Christmas Berry Honey) and Lehua honey, which comes from plants that primarily grow in the Big Island’s fresh lava flows. They’re both outstanding varietals which are nearly impossible to find outside Hawaii (unless you order online from a company like Big Island Bees), but neither features the same nutty honey taste as the product of macadamia nut nectar.
If you happen to be visiting America’s tropical paradise, it’s a smart idea to grab some macadamia honey. It’s more expensive if you order it online or by mail.
Why Macadamias Are So Expensive
There are a number of reasons why all products made from macadamia nuts, including honey, are expensive.
- It takes 7-10 years for Hawaiian macadamia nut trees to produce fruit.
- Hawaiian land suitable for the crop is expensive to buy and plant, because there’s so little of it.
- Pest infestations and rising labor costs have limited production.
- There’s so much demand that producers can get away with charging sky-high prices.
Is macadamia nut honey really so expensive that you’d think twice about buying it? Yes, if you simply want to use it as a sweetener for tea or a cooking ingredient; it’s at least 2-3 times as expensive as clover honey. But if you want a unique treat to pour over ice cream or waffles or mix with yogurt, it’s worth paying extra for.
Quantities of Macadamia Nut Honey are Limited
There’s one more reason for the high price of macadamia nut honey: the quantity that beekeepers can gather each year is limited.
We’ve mentioned that it takes 7-10 years for fruit to start appearing on the trees, but it can take another 5-8 years for them to fully flower and fruit. Macadamia trees are extremely susceptible to pests and disease outbreaks, and must be irrigated and maintained properly to maintain their health and productivity. That means the honey crop can easily be compromised.
And bees actually prefer other nectar sources, because the low protein content of macadamia nut nectar isn’t enough to sustain the colony. Hives must be specifically transported into the orchards during flowering season from February to early April, to ensure that enough nectar is collected to allow the production of this Hawaiian honey.
Characteristics and Uses of Macadamia Nut Honey
Macadamia nut blossom honey is soft and velvety in texture, and rich, dark amber in color. It has an interesting aroma that combines the scents of the farm, leather and of course, nuts. This is a sweet honey with notes of chocolate and a delicious citrus tang, along with its distinctive nut flavor.
Almost all jars of macadamia nut honey, whether you buy them online or in Hawaiian stores, contain raw honey which hasn’t been pasteurized or heavily filtered. That heavy processing (which removes most of honey’s natural health benefits) is normally reserved for commercial honeys sold on supermarket shelves.
Macadamia honey is prone to crystallization after sitting on the shelf for a relatively short period of time, due to its high glucose content.
We’ve already mentioned that this honey is perfect when used as a topping, but it’s traditional in Hawaii to enhance the flavor even more by mixing raw, ground macadamia nuts into the honey and using it as a spread on toast. Some also turn that mixture into a delicious candy or use it for baking. Macadamia nut honey is one of the best honeys to be eaten straight of the jar, because of its delicious sweetness and smooth texture.
Health Benefits of Macadamia Nut Honey
Macadamia nuts are even healthier than most other varieties, because of their high level of healthy fats. And macadamia nut honey combines some of those benefits with the natural ones inherent in raw honey.
Largely due to the small amounts of pollen, beeswax and propolis (bee glue) that aren’t filtered out during processing, raw honeys like the macadamia nut variety provides strong antioxidant, anti-bacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
Antioxidant power is important because it helps the body’s organs and systems fight damage caused by free radicals, potentially helping to fight diseases as serious as heart disease and cancer, and even fight the effects of aging. Antiviral and anti-bacterial properties help the body battle a plethora of serious health issues, of course, as bacteria and viruses cause an enormous number of the medical challenges we all suffer.
Macadamia nut honey’s antibacterial properties combine with its anti-inflammatory power to make it an outstanding treatment for wound healing, while killing the germs that could cause infection. And needless to say, just about any type of honey helps soothe sore threats and calm upset stomachs, the latter partly due to its effectiveness as a probiotic and prebiotic.
The best reason to make a special effort to find and sample macadamia nut honey, though, is the fact that it’s so yummy, and tastes like no other honey you’ve ever tried.