AskDefine | Define candlenut

Dictionary Definition

candlenut

Noun

1 large tree native to southeastern Asia; the nuts yield oil used in varnishes; nut kernels strung together are used locally as candles [syn: varnish tree, Aleurites moluccana]
2 seed of candlenut tree; source of soil used in varnishes

Extensive Definition

The Candlenut (Aleurites moluccana), 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 leaves are pale green, simple and ovate, or trilobed or rarely 5-lobed, with an acute apex, 10–20 cm long. The nut is round, 4–6 cm in diameter; the seed inside has a very hard seed coat and a high oil content, which allows its use as a candle (see below), hence its name.

Uses

  • The candle nut is similar (though "rougher") in flavor 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 cuisine and Malaysian, where it is called kemiri in Indonesian or buah keras in Malay. In Java of 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. In Japan its bark has been used on tumors. In Sumatra, pounded seeds, burned with charcoal, 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 bloody diarrhea or dysentery.
  • In ancient Hawaii, the nuts, named kukui were 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.
  • In Tonga, still nowadays, ripe nuts, named tuitui are pounded into a paste, tukilamulamu, used as soap or shampoo.
  • 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. It's the Hawaiian state tree.
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.

References

External links

candlenut in German: Lichtnussbaum
candlenut in French: Aleurites moluccana
candlenut in Indonesian: Kemiri
candlenut in Polish: Tung molukański
candlenut in Portuguese: Nogueira de Iguape
candlenut in Tonga (Tonga Islands): Tuitui
candlenut in Chinese: 石栗
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