Macadamia oil is at least as good as olive oil, I was told. For me, this was quite difficult to swallow, having heard and read the best about the Mediterranean diet and the virtues of olive oil from physicians and other health specialists. ‘And it is great to cook seafood’, added Shane Hill, head of the NSW company manufacturing it, Mac Nut oil. As good for eating as for staying fit ! At first, this sounded more like a tasting experiment I had to conduct being in the home country of macadamias.
The locally produced oil respected the criteria for sustainable environment: this was the main argument. Then, I imagined it would replace walnut oil, my favourite nut… The nutty tang fulfilled the promise, with perhaps a softer and more discreet presence. Unlike walnut or even olive oil, its mildness means it is good to make a mayonnaise. It can be simply added to a salad dressing and used safely to fry as its burning point is higher than olive oil. But essentially, it tastes exotic.
The macadamia harvest has just started in March and will last nine months. The picking schedule follows the rhythm of maturity of different varieties. In other words, it is quite a busy time for Shane Hill, when the plant is working 24 hours a day with a team of 20 people, 10 devoted to the production of the annual 250, 000 litres of macadamia oil.
Shane Hill was almost born at the plant. In fact, as he was still a student, he was hired during his free time by his science teacher to help in the macadamia oil process. A farmer, their neighbour, had first asked Shane’s teacher and a retired scientist for advice about macadamia nutritional quality, before they all saw the potential and decided to jump in the adventure. Shane Hill remembers : ‘They found out that it was a stable oil containing a high level of palmitoleic acid, which is similar to whale oil. A high level of this good monounsaturated fat and low polyunsaturated fats. On top of that, it has no cholesterol. Those qualities sounded very promising, even when used in the cosmetic industry’. I can hardly imagine how it is possible to spread macadamia oil on my face. I would rather eat it. But I was assured there is no greasy feeling. Furthermore, it contains interesting antioxidants such as squalene, which protect from sun-induced cell oxydation.
This first observation was made 25 years ago, in South Ballina in the New South Wales. Shane Hill student job which consisted in throwing nuts in the expeller press, turned into his full time occupation as he climbed the company ladder to reach the position of general manager. At the same time, the public interest increased, as better health products were sought after. As investments had to be made, the friends sold the company in 2000. It is owned today by Creata Ventures, an investment firm. Hopefully, Shane Hills will keep the pioneer spirit of his teacher’s alive.