Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. This might in part due to prices batting the budget beyond the back nut field.
If you love , sweet almonds, perhaps in this new year it’s time to propagate one. Do not confuse sweet almonds with bitter almonds, Prunis dulcis var. amara – the latter contain serious toxins and must be cooked prior to eating them. For centuries, almonds have been used as nutritionally rich food supplies. In addition, their taste has placed them on a pedestal of preference and great value.
Their importance isn’t new. Biblical references indicate almonds have been grown in Israel since 2000 BC in Canaan. In the book of Numbers, we read that Aaron’s rod blossomed and bore almonds (Numbers 17:8). They’re also mentioned in Genesis, Ecclesiastes, and Jeremiah.
Almonds were traded among ancient travelers on the Silk Road between Greece and Turkey, then exchanged for other expensive commodities.
The first almond trees arrived with the Franciscan monks near Sacramento, California in the mid-1700s. Today more than 25 types are grown commercially in California, and supply 80% of the world’s almonds. It’s also where the largest managed pollination event in the world occurs, as 1.1 million beehives are rented to do the job.
Even with modern mechanization, like tree shakers for expediting harvesting, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has led to global decline of honeybees. With this threatening the almond industry, there’s even more reason to plant a sweet almond and attract some Mason bees for pollination.
Although many nut tasters prefer the flavor of pecans, raw, sweet almonds – with their satisfying crunch and distinctive taste – have become the prime ingredient for many foods, candies, pies and cakes. They’re toasted and dipped in various coatings for snacks, ground into meal and flour for baking, and processed into butter. Move over peanut butter!
Almonds are not true nuts, in which the seed is contained in a hard shell that doesn’t naturally open to release the seed. Instead, almonds are edible seeds (or pits) of the fruit of the tree. Like most seeds, they contain great nutritional value. Consuming sweet almonds is very beneficial due to their generous offerings of protein, fats, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B, and E.
Almonds are also lovely landscape additions, given their elongated leaves and spectacularly fragrant five-petaled blush-pink flowers that perfume the air from late January through April. They’re hardy, deciduous trees that top out at 10-15’, and 6’-9’ for dwarfs, so perfect for most garden spaces.
While many require another variety as pollinator for fruit production, some are self-fertile. There are also dwarf and low chill varieties. Have limited space? Put in a dwarf self-fertile variety. Tolerating a wide variety of well-drained soils, newly planted almonds flourish with 8 hours or more of sun, good mulching, well-balanced organic fertilizer, and regular-deep irrigation (typically 1” per week over the root zone). Once established they need little supplemental irrigation.
After 2-3 years you can expect your first crop sometime in October. So, act now and acquire that sweet almond you’ve wanted to try.
Ty Ty Nursery
Tips for selecting a sweet almond tree:
- Make sure you know your areas chill hours (check with JCMGA for info)
- If you have room for one tree only, make sure it’s self-fertile
- If you want a dwarf tree, make sure the plant identification gives maximum height at maturity (smallest dwarf sizes are 6-9’)
Sweet Almond Tree Sources:
The following nursery sources have adequate information on their stock so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. For further assistance, they have knowledgeable assistants ready to help by phone or email.
Both of these sources have self-fertile and dwarf trees suitable for this area.
One Green World
Roasted Cocoa Spice Almonds
Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a jelly roll pan with heavy foil
1 lb raw almonds
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons organic honey
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Mix oil and honey, then pour it in a large zip-type bag. Add almonds. Close bag and massage until all are coated.
Mix cocoa, salt and spices in a large bowl. Dump in almonds and mix until all are coated. Spread almonds on foil-covered pan. Bake in preheated oven about 15-18 minutes until centers are golden when broken open. Remove pan and let almonds cool. Store in rigid containers (locking top plastic boxes, glass jars), in a cool dark place for up to 4 months or freeze to keep longer. Serve whole or chop for adding to or topping desserts or cookies.