Almond, the nutty fruit

Written by Litsa Bolontzakis on. Posted in My thoughts

It is beautiful, more than ever, dressed up in white, accessorized in pink and filling the air with a heady fragrance! Although it looks like a bride, this delight best describes an almond tree in full bloom during early spring. It’s full of white blooms with delicate pink centers, ready to produce its delicious fruits.

“Fruits?” you may ask. Isn’t an almond a nut? Yes and no. Although commonly considered a nut, the almond

( Amygdalus communis ) is a fruit. It is part of the rose family, from which other stone-fruit trees derive their origin. Stone fruits include peaches, apricots and plums. That’s why the kernels of these fruits resemble very closely an almond shell.

almondtree

The tree grows freely in Syria and Palestine . The Hebrew name of the tree sha qedh is very expressive. It literally means “awakening one” and this is quite fitting since the almond is one of the earliest trees to bloom following the winter rest, blossoming in January or early February. The tree may grow up to 5 m in height. The flowers are produced before the leaves. The leaves are oval shape and serrated on the edges. The almond fruit has an oblong shape rounded on one end and pointed on the other. There are two principal forms of the Almond, the one with the entirely pink flowers, Amygdalus communis Dulci’s , producing Sweet Almonds and the other Amara , with larger flowers and petals almost white toward the tips producing Bitter Almonds. The Sweet Almond is the earliest to flower, and is cultivated more largely than the Bitter Almond. It is valuable as a food and for confectionery purposes, as well as in medicine. The kernel is a source of desirable oil, 45 kg of the fruit producing some 20 kg of oil.


Almonds in History

almondshistory

The roots of almond history extend far back to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region. In fact, long before the time of Christ, Middle Easterners were using almonds as a regular feature of their diet. Around that time almonds, as well as the oil pressed from them, were well known in Greece and Italy . The Almond was very early introduced into England , probably by the Romans, and occurs in the Anglo-Saxon lists of plants. During the Middle Ages, Almonds became an important article of commerce in Central Europe . Their consumption in medieval cookery was enormous. The ancients attributed many wonderful virtues to the Almond, but it was chiefly valued for its supposed virtue in preventing intoxication.

Cultivation, Harvest and the Switch up

Sicily and Southern Italy are the chief Almond- producing countries. Spain , Portugal , the South of France, the Balearic Islands and Morocco also export considerable quantities. The tree is liable to destruction by frosts in many parts of Central Europe . In the past to prevent that, smudge pots were used to provide protection against frost but now other methods are used successfully.

The method of harvesting almonds has also changed over the years. Today machines are used to shake trees, gather up the almonds, and even separate the debris of dirt and hulls from the fruit. Then they are cracked, cleaned, graded by size, sorted by an electric eye, and given a final inspection.

What next happens to some almonds is most exciting and appetizing. Imagine a plain almond suddenly becoming flavored with hickory smoke, garlic or onion, or sugar coated, salted, roasted, or creamed into almond butter- to name just a few of the many tasty changes designed to tantalize our taste buds!

Almonds- Tiny Bundles of Concentrated Energy

Almonds are not only a very tasteful snack but also pack a lot of nutrition in a small, portable bundle. They consist of important nutrients found in all four of the basic four food groups- protein, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and grains. Let’s take a look at their nutritional value.

CARBOHYDRATE: Almonds are a source of complex carbohydrates and these are our body’s main source of energy. One ounce of almonds equals 170 calories.

FAT: Fat is an important energy source for our body. About half an almond’s weight is vegetable oil- a highly unsaturated fat. And almonds contain no cholesterol.

FIBER: One ounce of almonds provides your body with about 10 percent of its daily fiber need.

MINERALS: Almonds supply a high amount of the essential minerals phosphorous, copper and magnesium. Minerals are needed by our body for growth and proper maintenance. Almonds also contain good amounts of calcium and iron.

PROTEIN: Almonds are a fine source of vegetable protein. Proteins are necessary for our body’s growth and maintenance.

VITAMINS: Almonds are affine source of vitamin B2 and vitamin E. Vitamins are essential for our good health.



The next time you see this beautiful tree or you’re about to enjoy some of its delicious fruits remember how much you can benefit from the almond, the Nutty Fruit.

Litsa!

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Litsa Bolontzakis

Litsa Bolontzakis

Children's book and cookbook author Litsa Bolontzakis is an expert on Greek cooking and that culture's easy, simple way of life. Her desire is to help other families learn from her culture how to appreciate the simple things in life and grow to enjoy the seasons and the gifts they bring.

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