I first saw a candle nut when I was visiting an expert in Bush Tucker. 

He told me a bit about this amazing oily nut which I will pass on to you:

  1. It has a few names including Candlenut, Indian walnut, Kemiri, Varnish tree, Nuez de la India,  (Aleurites moluccana), Kukui nut, Candleberry.
  2. If you don’t cook it, it is poisonous.  Bake it in the fire or oven to remove its toxins.
  3. If you are caught in the dark with no torch but you have matches, light it.  It will burn for a quarter of an hour.  To make a longer burning lamp you just string them like a necklace and each light ignites the next.  In Hawaii they used this as a clock/lamp appliance!
  4. The oil is an irritant and has a laxative effect like castor oil.  Don’t eat too much of any sauce with candlenuts used as thickening.  You will have Bali Belly or its international equivalent for days.  But candlenut can be used where macadamias are used, just bitter.  Indonesian cuisine uses them a lot and balances the taste with other herbs and vegetables.
  5. It has a medicinal effect and some believe its bark to be effective in reducing tumours and removing warts.
  6. The pounded paste can be used in soap manufacture and alone can be rubbed into hair and used as shampoo.  It is said to promote healthy, thick hair.
  7. The oil preserves and waterproofs and the Australian aborigines use it in their nets and bags as did the Polynesians.
  8. Every part of the tree (flowers, bark, leaves and fruit) has a medicinal use in indigenous cultures.

Candlenuts have been transplanted and cultivated all over the tropical world and it is hard to say where they began, but I am betting on Indonesia/Malaysia from where the natives rowed canoes to Acapulco, Polynesian Islands etc. and I think they planted their favourite crops along the way.

The tree is used to make canoes but when it rots, it becomes infested with a coleoptera larva which is actually a good source of protein.

So when you audition for ‘Survivor’ – keep in mind that somewhere on your tropical island there will be a candlenut tree and, without being a know-all and getting voted off as a threat, tell your trusted cronies how useful it can be, and feed the raw, unbaked one to your competitors who will spend the entire time digging latrines.

Good luck!

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