Easy to spot at the farmers markets in his trademark red felt hat, macadamia farmer Ian McRae of Nudgel Nuts, along with his wife Leone, arguably produce some of the freshest and best quality macadamia nuts in the country.
Unlike many macadamia growers, who send their nuts off farm for processing, Ian and Leone have their own processing facility, which allows them to be in control of everything, from cracking and sorting through to roasting.
It means nuts can be roasted fresh each week, with just days between harvest and reaching their customers. It also means Ian can control the temperature of the oven, keeping it low to keep in the goodness. His natural nuts are roasted at a temperature below 40 degrees so that they are classified as a raw food. Other varieties are also slow roasted: “Our roasting oven never goes above 70 (degrees celcius). It can take 24 hours, and that changes the flavour too,” Ian said.
In addition to their natural and plain roasted macadamias, Ian and Leone also sell macadamia oil (available by the bottle or in refills), macadamia sprinkle (finely chopped macadamia), macadamia spread, and a popular range of dark and choc-coated varieties.
Based at The Pocket near Billinudgel, Ian and Leone, who are originally from New Zealand, planted their first macadamia trees about 20 years ago on the picturesque property that has been in Leone’s family for more than a century, and have been selling their nuts at the local farmers markets for more than a decade.
Their farm is insecticide and pesticide free, and they use biological controls for insect pests.
“Leone and I have always believed we want to leave the ground better than we found it and grow sustainably,” Ian said.
After a break for the off-season, Ian, who is the face of Nudgel Nuts, has recently returned to the farmers markets for the 2019 season. Depending on conditions, he says he should have nuts available until the end of the year.
Ian says being able to take his macadamias from tree to consumer is a source of great satisfaction and he loves the direct contact the farmers markets provide.
“I love the interaction with the customer,” he said.
“My customers are like my friends.”
“I just think I’m so lucky.”
* Find Nudgel Nuts at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market every Friday.