Candle nut

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Candle nut leaves, flowers and fruit

The Candlenut (Aleurites moluccanus), is a tree in the family Euphorbiaceae, also known as Candleberry, Indian walnut, Kemiri, Varnish tree or Kukui nut tree.

Its native range is impossible to establish precisely because of early spread by humans, and the tree is now widely distributed in the New and Old World tropics. It grows to a height of 15-25 m, with wide spreading or pendulous branches. The fruit is round, 4–6 cm in diameter; the nut (seed) inside has a very hard seed coat and a high oil content, which allows its use as a candle, hence its name.

Uses

  • The candle nut is similar (though "rougher") in flavour and texture to the macadamia nut, which has a similarly high oil content. It is mildly toxic when raw.
  • The nut is often used cooked in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine, where it is called kemiri in Indonesian or buah keras in Malay. In Java (Indonesia), it is used to make a thick sauce which is eaten with vegetables and rice.
  • 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 purgative and sometimes used like castor oil. It is also used as a hair stimulant or additive to hair treatment systems. The seed kernels have a laxative effect.

Modern cultivation is mostly for the oil. In plantations, each tree will produce 30–80 kg 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.

Mythology

In Hawaii the Candlenut tree is a symbol of enlightenment, protection and peace. Candlenut was considered to be the body form of Kamapua'a, the pig god. One of the legends told about a woman who, despite her best efforts to please her husband, was routinely beaten. Finally, the husband beat her to death and buried her under a kukui tree. Being a kind and just woman, she was given new life, and the husband was eventually killed.


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