I recently toured the Rio Frio Macadamia Farm in Nuevo Arenal, CR. One of the owners, Michelle Cloutier, was kind enough to give me a private tour. Michelle studied forestry at the University of Tennessee. With her experience in growing trees, she came to Costa Rica as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1980.
Rio Frio Macadamia Farm is a small part of a bigger farm that a USA company owned in the 60’s and early 70’s to raise beef cattle. The government of Costa Rica expropriated most of the farm to create the Arenal Lake and reservoir; this left about 270 acres of land which was no longer big enough to interest them with the cattle project so they sold the farm to another American, Robert Case who started the macadamia nut project. Michelle and her husband now own and operate the farm. Michelle has been part of the project for 28 years.
Left photo shows nursery bags that are being prepared for starting seedlings.
The farm has 2,000 trees of different ages expanding across 40 acres of land. New trees are started from seed and once they reach a reasonable height, they are grafted with a branch (budwood) from a mature tree to insure more productivity and quality.
Here is a closer view of a grafted macadamia nut tree. The scion wood is the term used for the branch that is cut off an adult tree and grafted to a young tree when about pencil thick. You can see that the union is starting to take place where the green shoots are emerging.
Pictured to the left are some macadamia nut flowers in blossom. The next photo shows a mature nut held up beside a flower stalk that has just started to develop tiny green nuts after loosing its blossoms.
For the macadamia nut trees to flower in Costa Rica, it requires the arrival of cooler weather in the months of January and February. (Most of the macadamia nuts are grown in C.R. at elevations over 1200 ft. since the temperatures are cooler there).On average each little bunch of flowers has over 200 blossoms, but only about 2-10 nuts mature on each bunch. After pollination, tiny green nuts begin developing which will eventually (7 mo. later) mature into the larger green husked, brown shelled nuts. Once they reach full size, they will fall on their own. The nuts are then harvested from the ground. The farm averages about 10 kilos of nuts per mature tree which converted to weight in pounds would be 22 pounds in green husks.
|Macadamia nuts in green husked stage.|
My blog entry for next week will be on the processing plant at the Rio Frio Macadamia Nut Farm. I look forward to sharing the different phases that occur between harvesting and packaging the nuts! If you would like to contact Michelle directly her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: To roast raw macadamia nuts, cook at 350 degrees for ten minutes.
If you want to get really fancy, you could try making macadamia nut brittle like they have in Costa Rica!