Origins: USA, Australia, Spain
Scientific Name: Prunus Dulcis
Almond is a species of tree that is endemic to Middle East and South Asia, however today California produces more than 80% of the world’s almonds. Other major origins are Australia and Southern Europe, with Chile also an emerging producer. There are more that 30 different varieties of almonds. The three major varieties produced are Nonpareil, California and Mission.
Once planted, an almond tree takes 4 years to reach full maturity and will continue producing for approximately 30 years. Almond flowers are pollinated by bees during the bloom period of around three weeks. Most orchards will require some form of irrigation to allow tree to reach its maximum capacity of production. When the flowers fall off, the buds grow into a shell cased in a soft hull, within which the almond kernel forms. As the fruit matures, the hull splits, exposing the shell and allowing it to dry. During harvest, the trees are mechanically shaken, to release the fruit form the trees. The collected shells are then sent to processing plants for cracking.
Once processed, the almond has proven to be a very versatile nut, serving a vast variety of uses. It can be processed into a number of different forms; in it’s raw form it is used as a snack and as an ingredient (particularly in the bakery and confectionary industries). Blanched almond meal is the main ingredient in marzipan furthermore blanched meal, sliced, slivered, whole blanched and split almonds are important ingredients in all the cuisines of the world. Almond milk has recently come to the fore an a substitute for diary and soya milk. Almonds oil has important uses in cosmetic applications as well as cooking oil.
Almonds are low in saturated fat and cholesterol free. They are high in protein and fibre and an excellent source of calcium and vitamin E.