Let’s play a quick game of mental association. When I say “macadamia,” what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, “Hawaii” will probably come to mind. But did you know that macadamia trees are indigenous to Australia? Hawaii just happened to market macadamia nuts better than anyone else. In fact, Hawaii now has to import macadamias from all over the world – from California and even Guatemala – to keep up with demand. One could, in theory, eat Guatemalan macadamia nuts that have been imported to Hawaii, then shipped to your local Walmart in the form of Hawaiian macadamia nuts.
How did I become a macadamia-savant? Well, it wasn’t because I went on a macadamia-induced Wikipedia binge. I learned the precious little bit I now know about macadamias after my visit last week to Valhalla Experimental Station, a macadamia farm located on the outskirts of Antigua Guatemala – near San Miguel Dueñas to be exact.
Entrance to Valhalla
Valhalla – Experimental Macadamia Farm in Antigua Guatemala
The Valhalla Experimental Station is the brainchild of Lorenzo Gottschamer and Emilia Aguirre, the welcoming couple who owns the farm. My wife and I spoke at length with Emilia, who graciously showed us around a bit. They have dedicated a good chunk of their lives to perfecting their genetic stock of organically-grown macadamia trees that are strongest and most naturally-suited to thrive in Guatemala. It hasn’t always been easy – the couple lived in an Airstream trailer inside the property for over 15 years while they supervised – and did – much of the hands-on work of planting and processing macadamias. To learn more about their story, click here (opens new window).
Lorenzo and Emilia’s Old Home
While Valhalla is a working farm, it does have attractions for tourists and local visitors. It features a restaurant, a spa (open by appointment), and a small store that sells miscellaneous macadamia-related products, chief among them beauty products, as macadamia oil has been found to possess anti-aging properties. Visitors can get a free facial (tip not included) and try out their products.
Valhalla’s main draw is its restaurant, which offers breakfast and lunch options. But to be honest, it’s all about the pancakes, which have bits of macadamia nuts, drizzled with creamy macadamia butter and topped with fresh blueberry marmalade – blueberries happen to be organically grown on on the farm.
Don’t be fooled – these pancakes will leave you stuffed!
The spa I mentioned earlier is operational, though it’s still being completed – a sauna is being finished as I type this. If you’re interested in a spa session – featuring macadamia oils and creams – contact Valhalla directly, and they can arrange that for you (see contact info below).
Valhalla Farm’s Spa
The visitors’ area grounds are delightful to walk around. In fact, if all you want to do is check out the farm and walk around for a bit, you’re welcome to do so. Bring a book if you want, find a spot in the shade and soak in the peaceful atmosphere. Plans to build bungalows are in the works.
Helping Local Communities
In addition to commercial ventures, the farm aims to provide local farmers with young macadamia trees at little or no-cost. The trees serve to encourage farmers to consume macadamias, which are rich in omega-7 and monosaturated fats. If farmers produce macadamias in enough quantities, they can sell macadamias for export. Valhalla – a certified macadamia grower – can process macadamias for farmers, which nets them a higher profit than if they sold their macadamias unprocessed. A macadamia tree starts producing fruits in about two years on average, is disease-resistant and produces year round.
An added benefit of encouraging farmers to plant macadamia trees is that it prevents the use of slash-and-burn agriculture, which is prevalent here. This type of farming depletes the soil of nutrients and the expense of short-term crop gains. Macadamia trees also supply ample firewood, making them even more attractive to locals.
To learn more about the farm and about the benefits of macadamias, click on any pic below to start the slideshow:
Valhalla is open every day from 8:00 a.m to 4:30 p.m. You can email them at [email protected], or call them at (502) 7831-5799 or (502) 5889-4925.
To get to Valhalla, catch a chicken bus bound for San Miguel Dueñas – they leave every 30 minutes from the main terminal. The trip is about 15-20 minutes and costs Q4 from Antigua. Just ask the driver to drop you off at the Macadamia farm.
Have you visited Valhalla yet?