If you like plants, and even more so if you are a collector, it may happen that you want to grow exotic species to have a different garden and/or orchard, which are not usually seen around your house. This is something that happens for example with the macadamia, a genus of evergreen trees that produce edible fruits similar to nuts, which is why they are known as macadamia nuts.
But Is the cultivation of macadamia nuts in Spain viable? It is a question that, in order to answer correctly, we first have to know what conditions these trees live in, and whether or not it is possible for them to live well in this country.
Where does the macadamia come from?
Our Macadamia are shrubs or trees that live in Indonesia, New Caledonia, Australia and China. Depending on the species, of which there are twelve accepted, they can reach a height of 2 to 20 meters. For example, the macadamia tetraphylla reaches 18 meters, while the Macadamia integrifolia stays within 10 meters maximum.
Its natural habitat is jungles and tropical forests.. In these places, the rains are abundant and, in addition, the humidity of the air remains high. Likewise, we have to take into account that we will only find them in those where the soil is rich in nutrients; that is to say, in those poor, eroded or over-exploited lands, it will not grow.
Can it be grown in Spain?
Although an advertisement says that Spain is a country with a Mediterranean climate… the truth is that it depends a lot on the area. Without going any further, in the lower reaches of the Canary Islands, an archipelago that is close to the equator, they enjoy milder temperatures than in the rest of the country, which is why they have a subtropical climate. If we go to the Pyrenees, to the north of the Iberian Peninsula, the climate is mountainous, with dry summers and very cold winters, with significant snowfall.
In Madrid, the capital, it is said that there is a transition between the semi-arid temperate-cold climate and the Mediterranean climate. This means that it has characteristics of both, with an average annual temperature between 14 and 15ºC.
Technically, only have a Mediterranean climate (at least, “official”) all those provinces whose coasts are bathed by said seasuch as the Balearic archipelago, the entire east and south coast of the Iberian Peninsula (with the exception of Huelva and part of Cádiz), as well as others such as eastern France, Greece or Italy.
Why am I telling all this and what does it have to do with macadamia? Because I have often seen that Spain seems to be sold as if it had a warm climate all year round, when the reality is that it depends a lot on where you are. And if we talk about the macadamia, it is a tropical plant, which needs high humidity and warm temperatures throughout the year, so can be very picky if grown in this country.
Moreover, it could only be cultivated without practically any problem in the low altitude areas of the Canary Islands, and in some points of the Andalusian coast. It could also be tried in other areas, such as in the south of Mallorca, but in these cases it would be necessary to have a greenhouse with heating, or failing that, a room in the house through which a lot of light could enter from outside.
Why are macadamia nuts so expensive in Spain?
There are many reasons. The first of them, more than with the plant, has a lot to do with what we have talked about now: climate. If a plant is not comfortable in an area, whether it is too cold, too hot, too dry, or too humid, its growth rate slows. This is the reason why, for example, coconut trees are not produced on a large scale in Spain, but olive trees are: coconuts only live in humid tropical places, while olive trees are native to the Mediterranean.
But apart from that, the macadamia is a plant that takes a long time to bear fruit. We are talking about the fact that, starting from the seed, it will take about 5 years before we can eat macadamia nuts. The good thing is that there can be two harvests a year, weather permitting. But… they are usually harvested by hand, something that makes the work more intense. And if they are also from importbecause the price is even higher.
If nothing changes, the price of a kilo of macadamia nuts will remain high, between 30 and 40 euros.
How can macadamia be grown in Spain?
Since it is a tropical plant, and it also needs a lot of light and warm temperatures to survive, apart from high air humidity, the ideal is to take advantage of spring and summer to have it outsideand put it indoors or in a greenhouse as soon as temperatures drop below 15ºC.
Likewise, we cannot neglect neither the irrigation nor the subscriber: the first will serve to keep it hydrated; the second well fed. For this reason, you have to water it several times a week while it is hot, and take advantage of those weeks to pay it with a fast-acting fertilizer, such as guano. But beware: follow the instructions on the package, otherwise you could be left without a plant.
The rest of the year, as temperatures are cooler, macadamia nuts grow more slowly. To this we must add that the land takes much longer to dry, so it should be watered much less. But as far as the subscriber is concerned, it can continue to be done, not so much to make it grow, but rather to keep its roots protected from the cold. However, the indicated dose will be reduced by half, and it will be paid once every 15 days until spring returns.