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Welcome to Gardens to Tables Travel Articles Mad for Macadamia at Hawaii's Puna Girl Farms
Mad for Macadamia at Hawaii's Puna Girl Farms Print E-mail
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Written by Abbie Mood   

Puna Girl Farms signIf you've ever wondered what all goes into growing those wonderful macadmia nuts you get in Hawaii, a visit to Puna Girl Farms in Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island is definitely in order. On a recent tour of Puna Girl Farms through Kapoho Kine Adventures (currently the only way to tour the farm) on a trip set up by the Big Island Visitors Bureau, I learned a lot about all that goes into macadamia nut farming from owner Cherie McArthur. Cherie and her husband Ian first came to Hawaii's Big Island in 1990 for a visit and were hooked. They bought some land in Pahoa (part of the Puna area) and, after clearing out eight acres of jungle by hand over two years to save 600 Macadamia nut trees, Puna Girl Farms was born.

For any of you who might be interested in trying your hand at macadamia nut farming, here are some tricks of the trade that Cherie passed along: 

*Instead of using pesticides, the Macadamia Association worked with the Department of Agriculture to study the habits of the insects that affect macadmia nut trees and figure out how to outsmart them. They found that there is one particular insect that takes five weeks to bore through a husk and shell, so harvesting the nuts every 3-4 weeks pretty much eliminates this problem.

Puna Girl macadamia nuts*Rodents are a problem because they love the nuts and run around the trees at night. There are endangered Hawaiian Hawks on the farm, so Puna Girl Farms cannot use poison or rodent bait. Instead, there are seven farm cats working around the clock to eliminate the rodents.

*Feral pigs are also a problem and can destroy orchards. Cherie put up an electric fence around the orchard to keep the pigs out.

*Due to old lava tubes underneath the farm, some areas have less soil than others, so fertilizer needs are different in different areas. The lava tubes and the 100 inches of annual rainfall in the area lead to great drainage, but also mean they need to fertilize every three months. Some chemical fertilizers are used to help balance the pH of the soil, which can vary depending on the volcanic ash in the air and the resulting acidic rain. This is the one area where the farm is not organic – according to Cherie, it’s just not economically feasible for a farm of their size to create all the different balances of fertilizer necessary for the trees.

After the nuts are harvested, husked and sorted, they are taken into Hilo, where the candy company Hawaiian Host does the drying and cracking before sending them off to Honolulu. In Honolulu, the nuts are then roasted and/or coated with chocolate and packaged to be shipped out.

Puna Girl macadamia nut honey

Cherie shared with me a recipe for Mac Nut Butter that they’ve just started letting guests sample on the farm. If you’ve got macadamia nuts and honey, give it a try. Or you can buy Puna Girl products online at punagirlfarms.com

Mac Nut Butter

1 11 oz. bag of Hawaiian Host Macadamia nuts, roasted with sea salt
2-3 teaspoons of Puna Girl Macadamia honey

Put the nuts in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the honey (start with 2-3 teaspoons, add more to taste) and mix for some delicious, fresh Macadamia nut butter! If you don't eat it all in one sitting, make sure to refrigerate between uses. 

Photos by Abbie Mood

 
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