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KUKUI NUT


Hawaiian kukui nut is the seed, or nut from the Kukui Tree, the official state tree of Hawaii.  Worldwide, the Kukui Nut tree is also known as the Candlenut tree.   In ancient Hawaii, kukui nuts represented tranquility, spirituality and safety among local tribesmen because of the many uses this plant provided people and ensured that subsistence.  The Kukui nut was orginally brought to Hawaii by voyagers from Polynesia who had first travelled through Asia, and can be seen throughout Hawaii and many tropical regions of the world today. The kukui nut itself is approximately 2.5 inches in diameter, the seed inside has an extremely hard seed coat and high oil content, which allows its use as a candle.  Kukui nuts, were in great demand in native Hawaii and are still today one of the most common wooden nuts / seeds used in Hawaii.  They are widely seen in Hawaii in the form of kukui lei necklaces and kukui bracelet jewelry, commonly worn at Hawaiian weddings, luaus and other festive ceremonial occasions.
  

The kukui tree represents the splendor and uniqueness of the Hawaiian islands in a variety of manners.  To begin with, it is the most prevalent of Hawaii's forest trees, often and grows up to 82 feet tall. 
The nut is often used in Indonesian and Malasian cuisine where it is called kemiri in Indonesian or buah keras Malay.  On the island of Java in Indonesia, it is used to make a thick sauce that is eaten with vegetables and rice. Outside of Southeast Asia, macadamia nuts are sometimes substituted for candlenuts when they are not available, as they have a similarly high oil content and texture when pounded. The flavor, however, is quite different, as the candlenut is much more bitter.

Several parts of the plant have been used in traditional medicine in most of the areas where it is native. The oil is an irritant and laxative sometimes used like castor oil.  It is also used as a hair stimulant or additive to hair treatment systems. In Japan, the bark of the kukui nut tree has been used by medical practitioners on the treatment of tumors.  In Sumatra, kukui nut seeds are burned with charcoal and are applied around the navel for costiveness. In Malaya, the pulped kernels or boiled leaves are used in poultices for headache, fevers, ulcers, swollen joints, and gonorrhea.  In Java, the bark is used for treating the dysentery. In Hawaiʻi, the flowers and the sap at the top of the husk (when just removed from the branch) were used to treat eʻa, or mouth infections, in children.

In ancient Hawaii, kukui nuts were primarily burned to provide light. The nuts were strung in a row on a palm leaf midrib, lit one end, and burned one by one every 15 minutes or so. This led to their use as a measure of time. One could instruct someone to return home before the second nut burned out. Hawaiians also extracted the oil from the nut and burned it in a stone oil lamp called a kukui hele po (light, darkness goes) with a wick made of kapa cloth.

Candle nuts are also roasted and mixed into a paste with salt to form a Hawaiian condiment known as inamona. Inamona is a key ingredient in traditional Hawaiian poke, a seafood dish made of minced fish and various herbs and spices.

Hawaiians also had many other uses for the kukui nut tree, including: leis from the shells, leaves and flowers; ink for tattoos from charred nuts; a varnish with the oil; and fishermen would chew the nuts and spit them on the water to break the surface tension and remove reflections, giving them greater underwater visibility A red-brown dye made from the inner bark was used on kapa and olonā cordage. A coating of kukui oil helped preserve ʻupena , the Hawaiian phrase for fishing nets. Kukui also represents the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i whose symbolic color is the silvery green of the kukui leaf.  The seats of Hawaiian outrigger canoes were made from the wood of the kukui tree, whereas the trunk of the kukui tree was sometimes used to make smaller canoes used for fishing.

Modern cultivation is mostly for the oil. In plantations, each tree will produce 30–80 kilograms (66–180 lb) of nuts, and the nuts yield 15 to 20% of their weight in oil. Most of the oil is used locally rather than figuring in international trade.

  Hawaii visitors and native Hawaiians alike, often buy kukui leis for their friends and family, due to their affordability and profound symbolism among the island.  Kukui nut leis are also available for purchase online for those who cannot make it to the islands of paradise in person.    
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