Food facts: Macadamia Nuts - Mustard

Facts and quirky pieces of information about the food we eat always interest me, both from an historical and a nutritional point of view.

Did you know that people who eat a fair amount of fish have lower chances of depression? Or that Australians on average eat 8 - 9 times more salt per day than is required by our bodies.

Up until just over 100 years ago Americans didn't eat tomatoes - they thought they were poisonous! I'm including lots of these food facts on each of the recipe pages on this web site. More are listed here on this page:


Macadamia Nuts

The macadamia nut is native to Australia but is now grown in South America, Israel, South Africa and California. Australia is now the world's largest commercial producer of macadamias. The shell of the nut is very hard to crack so the nuts are mostly sold pre-shelled. These nuts have a rich buttery flavour which is not surprising given their high fat content, however they are known to reduce the total and LDL cholesterol within the body. Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs.


Mace is the red, lacy membrane surrounding the nutmeg shell. It has a warm, spicy taste and aroma, similar to nutmeg but more delicate. The primary source of mace is Indonesia. Mace is used in an enormous variety of recipes and is very popular in India and the West Indies.


Mandarines are small, thin skinned citrus fruits. they are flat on the top and bottom so they are not as spherical as an orange. They are easier to peel than oranges and their segments can be easily separated. They are a very popular winter fruit in Australia. Mandarines can be found in the tinned fruit section of the supermarket, however the tinned variety tastes very different to the fresh fruit.


Mangoes are rich in vitamin C and beta carotene. They are also reputed to cleanse the blood. Never burn mango leaves or branches. The toxic fumes can cause serious irritation to the eyes and lungs. Be very careful of the stem end of mangoes if any part of the branch or leaf is attached, as the sap can cause allergic reactions.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is the rich syrup from the sap of the maple tree. It is frequently eaten with pancakes, waffles and ice cream. Canada makes more than 80% of the world's maple syrup. It takes approximately 40 litres of sap to be boiled down to 1 liter of syrup. Try to buy maple syrup as opposed to the cheaper maple flavoured syrup.


Marjoram is a herb used in Mediterranean style dishes. The leaves are used fresh or dried and are similar in taste but sweeter than oregano. It is used in ratatouille, casseroles and tomato based dishes plus is it used in a vast array of meat dishes. 90% of the world's marjoram comes from Egypt.


Marrows are larger versions of zucchinis. They are cream colour inside with a dark green skin. They have a bland taste so are best served stuffed with other foods such as meat.


Watermelons contain as much iron as spinach and many other vitamins & minerals. Water melons contain less vitamin C than rock melons (cantaloupes). When eaten by itself melon is easy to digest but when eaten with other foods it is said to inhibit the absorption of nutrients from those other foods. One of the earliest records of melons is in an Egyptian tomb painting from 2400 B.C.

Milk, Cream and Yoghurt

Milk is often referred to as a complete food and is one of our most widely used ingredients. The main milks that we consume are cow's, goat's and sheep's milk. Nowadays we have the option of using "milks" that are non-dairy such as soya, rice and oat milks. Skim milk contains only half the calories of full fat milk but is nutritionally much the same. Milk is an important source of calcium and phosphorous. It also contains reasonable amounts of zinc and the B vitamins. Cream has a very high fat content varying from 12% to 55% depending on the variety. Consequently it should be eaten sparingly. The bacteria that is in yoghurt ensure that it is easily digestible. It stimulates the good bacteria in our guts and suppresses the harmful bacteria.


Millet is a grain food that is a staple in the diets of Africa, China and India. It is one of the world's major grain crops. Because it has a mild flavour millet is suitable to serve with spicy dishes and curries. It is a highly nutritious grain that can be ground into flour. Millet flour does not contain gluten so it is no good to use in bread that needs to rise. Because it has no gluten content it is a grain that coeliac disease suffers can safely eat.


The three main varieties of mint are spearmint, peppermint and pennyroyal. The common garden variety of mint is spearmint. There are several other mints that are worthwhile growing - apple, pineapple and lemon mint. Mint was chewed as a breath freshener in early history and mints were recommended as digestive aids. Rats and mice are deterred by mint.


Miso is a thick paste made from soy beans, rice, barley or wheat with the addition of salt and water. This mixture is left to ferment with a special mould for as much as three years. Buddhist monks began making this mixture as far back as the seventh century. Miso adds a rich, savoury flavour to soups, stir fries and noodle dishes. It varies in colour, saltiness and sweetness depending on the type of bean and grain that is used to make it. Traditionally the Japanese begin their day with a bowl of home-made miso soup. Miso has excellent keeping qualities but once the packet is opened it must be stored in the fridge.


Molasses is a rich, dark brown syrup which is a by product of the sugar cane industry. It is used as a sweetener but has quite a strong taste. Molasses is mostly used in baking.


There are more than 2,000 varieties of edible mushrooms but only a few of these are readily available. Mushrooms have no cholesterol and are are virtually free of fat and sodium. They contain vitamin B1, B2. potassium, selenium, iron and niacin. The Pharaohs of Egypt delighted in mushrooms so much that they decreed that mushrooms could not be eaten or even touched by common folk. They considered mushrooms the food of royalty and by stopping commoners eating them they then assured a larger supply for themselves.


White, black and brown mustard seeds are used with other ingredients to make the array of mustards that are available today in our supermarkets. Their flavours and aromas are only revealed when they are crushed or mixed with liquid. Black mustard is the most pungent and white is the least pungent. White mustard seed is used whole in pickling spice. The brown seeds are ground and used in curry powders. The black seeds are blended with unfermented wine to make Bordeaux mustard.


Read other interesting food facts (in alphabetical order):

Allspice - Avocados
Allspice, almonds,amaranth, apples, apricots, asparagus, aubergines, avocados

Bananas - Buckwheat
Bananas, barley, basil, bay leaves, beans, beetroot, black berries, black currants, blueberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, buckwheat

Cabbage - Chestnuts
Cabbage, capsicum, caraway, cardamom, carrots, cashews, cauliflower, cayenne, celeriac, celery, cheese, cherries, chestnuts

Chicken - Cumin
Chicken, chickpeas, chicory, chilies, chives, cinnamon, cloves, coconut, coriander, corn, couscous, cucumbers, cumin

Dates - Fish
Dates, dill, eggplant, eggs, fennel, fenugreek, figs, fish

Galangal - Green Beans
Galangal, garlic, ginger, globe artichokes, gooseberries, grapefruit, grapes, green beans

Hazelnuts - Limes
Hazel nuts, honey, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, kafir lime leaves, kale, leeks, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemons, lentils, lettuce, limes

Macadamia Nuts - Mustard
Macadamia nuts, mace, mandarins, mangoes, maple syrup, marjoram, mar ow, melons, milk, millet, mint, miso, molasses, mushrooms, mustard

Nectarines - Oregano
Nectarines, nutmeg, oats, olive oil, onions, oranges, oregano

Papayas - Pumpkin
Papayas, paprika, parsley, parsnips, peaches, peanuts, pears, peas, pecans, pineapples, pine nuts, plums, potatoes, pumpkin

Quince - Rye
Quinces, quinoa, radishes, raspberries, rice, rosemary, rye

Sage - Sweet Corn
Sage, sea vegetables, seeds, silver beet, soy sauce, sprouted seeds, squash, strawberries, swede, sweet corn

Tamari - Zucchini
Tamari, tarragon, tempeh, thyme, tofu, tomatoes, triticale, turkey, turmeric, turnips, vanilla, walnuts, wheat, zucchini