Tropical Gardening: Christmas can be nuts depending on where you live – Hawaii Tribune-Herald (subscription)

In years gone by, if you lived in North America or Europe, the traditional nuts found at Christmas would have been walnuts or hazelnuts. Pecans would have been the choice in the Southern states. Now we may find nuts from all over the world at the local markets. For example in Haiti, you might find tropical almonds roasted and made into a confection similar to peanut brittle. This is actually Terminalia catappa known in Hawaii as false kamani. In the Philippines, you might find the pili nut or one of its relatives. The pili nut has over 600 species in the family Burseraceae and may be found throughout Southeast Asia. Even the macadamia has close relatives in tropical Asia, so depending on where you live, you may find local nuts as well as exotic introductions included in the regional cuisine.

Some folks think macadamia nut trees are native to Hawaii,…….

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In years gone by, if you lived in North America or Europe, the traditional nuts found at Christmas would have been walnuts or hazelnuts. Pecans would have been the choice in the Southern states. Now we may find nuts from all over the world at the local markets. For example in Haiti, you might find tropical almonds roasted and made into a confection similar to peanut brittle. This is actually Terminalia catappa known in Hawaii as false kamani. In the Philippines, you might find the pili nut or one of its relatives. The pili nut has over 600 species in the family Burseraceae and may be found throughout Southeast Asia. Even the macadamia has close relatives in tropical Asia, so depending on where you live, you may find local nuts as well as exotic introductions included in the regional cuisine.

Some folks think macadamia nut trees are native to Hawaii, but here we know it is an Australian tree that we adopted as our own. We use the nut in all kinds of local dishes, especially desserts. Roasted macadamia nuts are great Christmas snacks and gifts. We even use the leaves for Christmas decorations instead of holly.

When the first humans arrived in Hawaii, edible nutritional kernels or nuts were hard to find. About the only native nut was the mahoe or alectryon macrococcus. Polynesians then brought with them the coconut and the kukui nut. Technically, the coconut is not a true nut. Although kukui nut is edible, it can create serious stomach issues when too many are eaten since it is related to the castor bean. So in the arena of foods and nutrition, true nuts were lacking.

In the 20th century, University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture researchers literally scoured the tropical world for nut crops that might adapt to some of Hawaii’s diverse climates. Many nut bearing species like almonds and cashews were introduced but none really found popularity like the Australian macadamia nut. Even though the first macadamias arrived here in the late 1800’s, it took years for it to be seriously considered as a commercial crop. Then researchers developed many superior varieties and it wasn’t long before farmers began growing them commercially. Today, when folks think macadamia, they think Hawaii since the best varieties were promoted as Hawaiian macadamias even thought they are now grown in parts of Africa, tropical America, Asia and Australia as well.

Besides macadamias, let’s consider some of the other nuts with potential for us. Cashews are popular in tropical Asia and you will find them used in many recipes, however the trees were originally discovered in Brazil, ultimately to be spread worldwide.

In Hawaii, cashews fit well in the home garden. The nut or seed develops at the bottom of the cashew fruit. It is easily grown from seed and grows quickly to be a small round headed tree. Cashew trees are related to mango trees and have irritating sap so the seed must be handled carefully when processing.

The juicy fruit is edible fresh or made into juice or even an alcoholic beverage.

When was the last time you had pili …….

Source: https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2021/12/04/features/tropical-gardening-christmas-can-be-nuts-depending-on-where-you-live/

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