Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Alternative Fuel - Kukui Nuts

I had mentioned previously that I planned to experiment burning kukui nuts. They are common around here and nobody uses them. Thus people don't mind if you harvest them. Harvesting is easy because the nuts drop to the ground. Just a case of picking the up. 

About three weeks ago I picked up a shopping bag of them from under a tree at my mom's house. Then I set them on a table under the eaves so that they would dry out. I didn't bother to husk them at all. Simply set them in the table away from any rain. So today I picked them up in order to give them a try. The husks were completely dried. 

I first started the fire my usual way, using twigs and a bit of paper. Then I burned a couple faggots of twigs in order to get a bed of embers before adding nuts. Then I put about a quart of nuts atop the embers. It didn't take long for them to start slowly burning. Once the nuts started to burn, they burned hot and bright. 
About 5 minutes into the burn they started putting off a lot of heat. It was like putting an equivalent amount of charcoal briquettes into the fire. Those nuts burned intensely for about 15 minutes before starting to slow down. That was impressive. And the heat output was impressive too. 

So I conclude that dried kukui nuts do indeed make suitable fuel. Though free for the taking, it does take time to pick them up. And stooping down to reach them. I don't know if they would still burn as well if they were stored for months before burning, but storing for a month or so seems to be  fine. So here's another thing I'll need to experiment with. How long will they retain their oil and be good for a hot fire? 

So where did I get the idea to try burning these nuts? From the ancient Hawaiians. They used these nuts as a torch, skewering them on a stick then setting them alight. The nuts contain oil that readily burns. So I knew that historically they were good for burning for light, but I was surprised to see how much btu's they generate. Hot little buggahs! 


  1. You so lucky! Kukui nuts do burn well, as you showed. You might want to try getting a kukui picker-upper, like one from www . nutpicker dot com for a reasonable price, given how fast they can roll along and help fill a few buckets in a few minutes. Just a thought.

  2. Thanks for the tip. I'm going to check it out.

  3. Fineartgourds wrote via email...
    "Enjoyed your blog on the explosive qualities of Kukui nuts so am approaching my own experiment very carefully. In the studio I found two batches of elderly and well-dried nuts, one with husks and one without. Once I had coals, I added a fews handsful of each.....nothing so wild as a whole quart! Took them awhile to burn thru to the oil kernal, when they blazed up quick and hard. I can't see them useful as a primary fuel source but to add some zip to a mildly damp bit of ohia I think they might be invaluable!