Almonds are considered one of the most popular, important and versatile of all the tree nuts. They are a large part of the world’s tree nut consumption. We are only now finding out about the amazing health benefits of these delicious nuts.The origin of the almond can be located in the desert areas of Western Asia, from which it spread to regions of the Mediterranean.These days, the principal producing countries are the USA, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Australia. Australian almonds are predominantly grown along the Murray River corridor.
Almonds are grouped into two primary categories, sweet and bitter. About ninety percent of the almond crop is shelled at processing plants. They are then sold according to size, style, and grade.
The sweet almond is grown for its edible nuts. Sweet almonds are delicious and healthful. Almonds come in various forms: in-shell, shelled, blanched, slivered, chopped, ground, roasted, sweetened, salted, coated. Almonds are often used in snacks and confectionery. Like marzipan and nougat. Many recipes use almonds to add texture and flavour. Bitter almonds are mostly used in cooking and cosmetics. The bitter oil is used as food flavouring and in the cosmetic industry.
How are almonds grown?
After three years of growth, the almond tree produces its first crop. Trees reach maturity at seven years and have a life cycle of 25-30 years. In the almond tree lifecycle, early spring is an important time when buds burst into full bloom and are ready for pollination. Bees are brought into the orchard to assist in the pollination process and improving crop size. Following pollination, the almond emerges surrounded by a shell and outer hull. The shell hardens inside the outer hull to protect the nut from the elements. In summer, the outer hull splits open and exposes the hardened almond shell to allow drying. Almond harvest occurs between late summer and early autumn. Once the almonds have been harvested, they go to the hulling & shelling plant where the soft outer hulls are removed. Then the hard shell is carefully cracked open and the kernel removed. They are transported to a processor for quality and size grading and packing for sale.
Almonds are a great source of antioxidant Vitamin E, minerals and protein.