Try out the original Australian bush food: the humble macadamia nut
did you know?
Macadamia nuts might be native to Australia, but in 1882 the first macadamia trees were planted in Hawaii, which is now the world’s biggest producer of the nut.
Australian cuisine can be hard to pin down. At a glance it’s a mishmash of South-east Asian tastes and a sprinkling of Brit classics. But Aussie food runs deeper and older than the dishes it’s inherited, and those who visit its eastern coast will spy an ingredient that has influenced local diets for millennia.
Long before the Brits arrived or the first shrimp was thrown ‘on the barbie’, Australia’s Aborigines roamed the eastern forests for macadamia trees – indigenous to the area. Its nuts were considered a delicacy and given as gifts at inter-tribal meets. Now, their old hunting ground, the Great Dividing Range (from Melbourne to northern Queensland), is veined with trails, winding rocky plateaus and forests, so you can walk in their footsteps.
It wasn’t until the late 19th century that people began farming macadamias here; it was then that these nuts inched their way into modern Australian cooking. They can now be found in everything from super-food salads and roast dinners to tart fillings ( see right). Macadamia milk (made by blending nuts with water) is even mixed with coffee.
To this day, the orchards of Byron Bay are a healthy supply of income for backpackers, and a host of trails now throw in plantation visits for travellers, offering walks, an insight into nut production and even a chance to pick your own, too. But if you can’t get to Australia yet, just mix some macadamias into your next meal. Or just eat the nuts straight from the shell, like Australian Aborigines would have done millennia ago.