What's In Season at the Farmers Market: Fresh In-The-Husk Macadamia Nuts from Mud Creek Ranch
Freshly harvested macadamia nuts from Mud Creek Ranch
Macadamia nuts are not very shelf-stable for two reasons: high sugar content and high oil content. Rancidity is the curse around the corner, so a lot of growers opt to sell to processors who then do a quick roast to help stabilize them for sale. This works great for some varieties, but if it's one of the sweeter macadamias, roasting ends up burning the sugars, destroying one of the more pleasing aspects of this Australian native nut. What we see commercially is often a ravaged product -- bitter, dry and disappointing.
Smaller growers like Mud Creek Ranch have built their reputations on offering the previously unoffered -- and macadamia nuts certainly fit into this category. The shells are hard, requiring muscle and gritty determination to crack them. What's more, Mud Creek offers the nuts inside their green husks. While at first it seems like just another obstacle, it's actually a wonderful thing. Those husks mean that what's inside is fresh, sweet and creamy, all the attributes that make the macadamia nut such a sought-after harvest. Most of the time the closest you'll get to that flavor is on a jaunt to a Hawaii plantation. Now it's just a skip down the 101 on Sundays.
Mud Creek Ranch is a slowly and carefully developed orchard, sculpted by passionate interest. A fateful frost in the early '90s prompted a sea change; instead of replanting acres and acres of Valencias, the farmers dipped into rarer fruit varieties. Along with the macadamia nuts, the Smiths also offer hard-to-find Bergamot oranges, white mulberries and pineapple quince. Citrus and avocados still make up the core of their produce, but a visit to their stand each week always yields something new.
The peak flavor of macadamias is based on both the variety and the freshness. Mud Creek Ranch's nuts are almost caramel-sweet and super buttery, and since they're fresh, they'll stay that way longer than anything you get from the store. There are a plethora of ingenious inventions specifically for cracking these nuts, most of them from New Zealand and Australia. Simplicity is often best, especially if you're having a bad day. Sit outside on a sunny day, grab a stone and smash away.
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