Since we arrived in New Zealand during the winter months, we were eager to find a place to plant ourselves and wait for the good weather. We chose the Coromandel Peninsula, just east of Auckland, and landed on a Macadamia Orchard just in time to help with the harvest.
Didn’t you know that macadamia nuts are harvested in winter? Yah, me neither.
Along with that little tidbit, we learned an incredible amount about the Macadamia in the 2 months we were on the Orchard. I thought I’d post some of my favorite macadamia trivia, just in case anyone was curious:
- Harvesting macadamias is every 7-year-old boy’s dream job. Grab a rake, climb a tree, and hit/scrape the nuts off their stem so that they fall onto the nets below.
- Raw macadamia tastes a lot like coconut.
- Macadamia Oil is a perfect substitute for butter in baking cookies and bread but is also called “liquid gold” due to its high cost.
- The tree takes over one full year to produce the nuts. So while you harvest, you have to be careful not to damage the flowers for next year’s crop.
- There is an outer shell, called the husk, which must be removed within 24 hours or the nut starts to germinate (go to seed).
- Once the nuts are husked, they must be dried until they lose ~25% of their weight, a process which takes at least a week.
- The shell of the nut is impossibly difficult to remove. We’ve heard of people putting the nut in a vise and then hitting it with a hammer. The couple on the orchard had fashioned a special sort of crank to do the job. Moana, the farm’s Jack-Russell Terrier, held the nut in her mouth until the shell softened enough to crack…dogs are fascinatingly intelligent.
- Macadamia crusted fish and scallops are to die for. As are Fred’s Chocolate Macadamia Brownies.
After about 3 days in Auckland, Eugenio and I realized that our initial plan was utter crap. The idea seemed like a good one: find work and temporary housing in New Zealand’s biggest city, ride out the cold winter by earning/saving money so that we didn’t have to stress about finding work when the summer came. That was all and good, until we got here and realized that the cost of living in Auckland is so high that any earnings from a temporary/seasonal job would be quickly spent. Not particularly keen on the idea of dipping into our savings, we decided to figure something else out. Plan B? Head East to the Coromandel Peninsula, which has relatively mild winters, and WWOOF it.
Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a world-wide organization which puts travelers in touch with local farmers. The idea is that in exchange for 20-25hrs/week, you’ll receive full room and board along with an incredible opportunity to live with the locals and learn a bit about agriculture, gardening, bee-keeping, building, you name it. It was a similar organization led me to meet my beloved family in Tuscany back in the summer of 2011 (I can’t believe that was over 2 years ago).
Anyway, a quick search led us to a family-run Macadamia orchard near Hahei, a town with a population of 270 in the winter and 7,000 in the summer. It’s a holiday retreat for many Kiwis, but we took full advantage of being here in the off-season; we had it all to ourselves. Stunning coastline, gorgeous mountains, clean air, and peace & quiet. Lots and lots of quiet. Bedtime was frequently 9pm because there was really nothing else to do once the sun went down.
But there was much to do during the day! The beach down the road was home to a cockle and pipi bed (read: types of clams I’ve never heard of). The beach 10 minutes away was home to natural hot springs. The Pacific Coast was full of gorgeous Snapper, Gurnard, and Kahawai just waiting to be hooked. An organic garden with beautiful lettuces, beets, herbs, beans, lemons, tamarillos, avocadoes. When asked if we could stay until mid-September, we couldn’t think of any reason not to!
So it was in this little slice of paradise that we planted for the past 2 months, enjoying a much slower, healthy, wholesome pace. The following are a few photos from around the Orchard and in the Hahei area (click on a photo and scroll through):