Saturday, 04 April 2015 00:00

How do Almonds grow?

Usually referred to as a nut, the almond is actually not a true nut.

  • Latin Name:

    Prunus dulcis

     

    Almond time laspes seedling

    Almond time laspes blossom

  • Growth:

    USDA hardiness zones 6-10 Click here to view USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

    Almonds grow on trees that are a species in the genus Prunus - along with plums, cherries and peaches. Although usually referred to as a nut, the almond is not a true nut. In fact, an almond tree is most closely related to a peach tree. It produces a fruit called a stone fruit or drupe, which has an outer hull and a hard shell with a seed inside: the almond “nut.”

    The almond tree is deciduous (drops its leaves in winter) and grows 13 to 33 feet in height.  It has pale pink or white blossoms in early spring before the leaves appear. The fruit matures in autumn, approximately 7 to 8 months after flowering.

    Almond trees grow best in climates similar to the Mediterranean region - with warm, dry summers and wet, mild winters. The tree buds have a chilling requirement of 300 to 600 hours below 45 degrees to break their dormancy, and the optimal temperature for growth is 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Young almond trees begin producing a crop in the third year after planting. Trees reach full maturity at 5 to 7 years and can continue to produce harvestable nuts for up to 50 years. A healthy tree produces 30 to 50 pounds of almonds per year.

  • Propagation:

     

    Almond trees can be propagated from grafted cuttings, or grown from seed.

    Propagating an almond tree is done by cutting a branch from a proven producer and grafting it onto hardy rootstock.  This is done in winter when the tree is dormant - usually Decmeber to February. It is then stored until spring when it is grafted onto rootstock from another almond tree or other stone fruit tree such as peach.

  • Harvest:

    When almonds are ready for harvest in autumn, the green fruits (hulls) dry out on the tree and begin to split open, revealing the shelled almond inside. The fruits often drop from the tree at this point but can also be picked by hand. 

    Commercial growers use mechanical shakers to remove the almonds from the trees, then use mechanical blowers and harvesters to collect them to take to processing.  

    The almonds are hulled and allowed to dry in a cool, well ventilated place for one week. The almond should rattle in its shell once it has dried out.

     

  • Storage:

    Store whole almonds in a cool, dry place in an airtight container to prevent insect infestation and to avoid moisture or mold. Almonds can be kept up to 8 months in this manner.

    Almonds can also be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. They can keep up to 12 months in the refrigerator, and for over a year in the freezer. Store sliced almonds in the freezer at all times.

  • History:

    Almonds are native to central and southwest Asia, where they grew along the trade routes of the Silk Road that connected China to the Mediterranean. Almond trees sprout easily and wild groves cropped up plentifully along trade routes.  They were therefore part of almost every ancient civilization along these routes. Mentioned as early as 2000 BCE in Hebrew literature, reports of almonds were also documented in Turkey, Romania, Egypt and Persia. In Egypt, almonds were entombed with King Tut circa 1350 BCE. In ancient Persia, the image of almonds appear woven into rugs, and the nut was used to make almond milk from almond meal and water. They also appear in the Old Testament of the Bible as a symbol of divine approval. In ancient Rome, almonds were considered fertility charms, and newlyweds were showered with them.

    The almond industry in the United States originated in the 1850s in California, where the regions around Sacramento, Monterey and Los Angeles produced the first successful crops. Today, the United States leads the world in almond production, producing 80% of all almonds internationally. The almond industry in the United States is centered in California and is steadily growing as demand increases.

     

  • Top Producers:

    The world’s top almond producers are the United States, Spain, Italy, Iran and Morocco (FAOSTAT, 2011).

  • Varieties:

    Almond varieties include Butte, California, Carmel, Fritz, Mission, Monterey, Nonpareil, Padre, Peerless, Price, and Sonora.

  • Products:

    Almonds are eaten raw, roasted, or blanched. They are often used as an ingredient in breads, desserts, salads and cooked dishes. Almond milk and almond butter have become an increasingly popular and nutritious alternative to cow’s milk and farmers are increasing yields from year to year.

    Almond oil is utilized for health and cosmetics uses.

  • Top Health Benefits:

    Like heart-healthy olive oil, almonds are high in levels of “good fats,” also known as monounsaturated fats. Consuming almonds can help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

    Several extensive studies link the consumption of almonds and other nuts high in monounsaturated fats to the reduced risk of heart disease. Researchers found that replacing carbohydrates and saturated fats (found primarily in meat and dairy products) with an equivalent amount of nuts such as almonds can reduce the risk of heart disease by between 30% and 45%.

    A quarter-cup of almonds contains good levels of magnesium and potassium, as well as 40% the daily value of the antioxidant, vitamin E. Both are minerals essential in maintaining healthy heart function and blood pressure.

    For maximum benefits, leave the skins on almonds. Almond skins contain 20 powerful antioxidant flavonoids found in popular healthy hard-hitters such as green tea and grapefruit.

    Although high in monounsaturated fats, studies have found that participants who eat almonds or other nuts twice a week were 31% less likely to gain weight than participants who never ate nuts.

    The high levels of vitamin B2 in almonds, combined with minerals such as manganese and copper, help with energy production in the body.

    Eating almonds actually helps to reduce blood sugar levels after a meal, providing protection against diabetes. When paired with a food with a high glycemic index, almonds can help to lower the glycemic index of the meal.

  • Grow it yourself:

    It is best to buy an almond tree in a nursery if you want to grow one yourself - preferably one three years old or older, so it will start producing almonds for you more quickly.

  • Recipe:

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