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Candlenut, Aleurites moluccanus, is native to the Indo-Malaysia region and was introduced in ancient times throughout the Pacific islands and into Asia.  It now grows in much of the tropical world.

The candlenut is eaten in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisines, usually ground and made into sauces.  It is also used in traditional Hawaiian cuisine.  Candlenuts are sometimes substituted for macadamia nuts when they aren’t available, but the candlenut is much more bitter and the flavor is quite different.  As the nuts contain saponin and phorbol, they are somewhat toxic when raw.

Candlenuts have a very high oil content.  In Hawai, they are known as kukui and have been used for centuries as candles.  It is the state nut of Hawaii and the flowers, leaves and nuts are all used in lei.  Candlenut is used in the cosmetics industry, in ethno-medicine, as animal feed, as a dye for tattoos, and for writing on bark cloth.

Patricia Rain
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