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Almond

When In Season:

    California (Northern): January (early) - December (late)

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Almond on Wikipedia:

This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (February 2008) For other uses, see Almond (disambiguation). Almond Almond tree with ripening fruit. Majorca, Spain. Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae Division: Magnoliophyta Class: Magnoliopsida Order: Rosales Family: Rosaceae Genus: Prunus Subgenus: Amygdalus Species: P. dulcis Binomial name Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D.A.Webb Almond, nut, raw Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz) Energy 2,418 kJ (578 kcal) Carbohydrates 20 g Sugars 5 g Dietary fibre 12 g Fat 51 g saturated 4 g monounsaturated 32 g polyunsaturated 12 g Protein 22 g Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.24 mg (18%) Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.8 mg (53%) Niacin (Vit. B3) 4 mg (27%) Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.3 mg (6%) Vitamin B6 0.13 mg (10%) Folate (Vit. B9) 29 μg (7%) Vitamin C 0.0 mg (0%) Calcium 248 mg (25%) Iron 4 mg (32%) Magnesium 275 mg (74%) Phosphorus 474 mg (68%) Potassium 728 mg (15%) Zinc 3 mg (30%) Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults. Source: USDA Nutrient database

The Almond (Prunus dulcis, syn. Prunus amygdalus Batsch., Amygdalus communis L., Amygdalus dulcis Mill.) is a species of tree native to the Middle East. Almond is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated nut of this tree. Within the genus Prunus, it is classified with Peach in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated shell (endocarp) surrounding the seed.

Although popularly referred to as a nut, the edible part of the almond is botanically not a true nut, but the seed of a drupe (a botanic name for a type of fruit), which consists of an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed inside. Shelling almonds refers to removing the shell to reveal the seed. Almonds are commonly sold shelled, i.e. after the shells are removed, or unshelled, i.e. with the shells still attached. Blanched almonds are shelled almonds that have been treated with hot water to soften the seedcoat, which is then removed to reveal the white embryo.

Green almonds

Shelled (right) and unshelled (left) almonds

Blanched almonds

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Description

The almond is a small deciduous tree, growing to between 4 and 10 meters in height, with a trunk of up to 30 centimetres in diameter. The young twigs are green at first, becoming purplish where exposed to sunlight, then grey in their second year. The leaves are 3–5 inches long[1], with a serrated margin and a 2.5 cm (1 in) petiole. The flowers are white or pale pink, 3–5 cm diameter with five petals, produced singly or in pairs before the leaves in early spring.[2][3]

The fruit is mature in the autumn, 7–8 months after flowering.[2][3]

In botanical terms, an almond is not a true nut. The fruit is a drupe 3.5–6 cm long. The outer covering or exocarp, fleshy in other members of Prunus such as the plum and cherry, is instead a thick leathery grey-green coat (with a downy exterior), called the hull. Inside the hull is a reticulated hard woody shell (like the outside of a peach pit) called the endocarp. Inside the shell is the edible seed, commonly called a nut in culinary terms. Generally, one seed is present, but occasionally there are two.

Origin and history

The almond is a native to the Mediterranean climate region of the Middle East, eastward as far as Pakistan[4]. It was spread by humans in ancient times along the shores of the Mediterranean into northern Africa and southern Europe and more recently transported to other parts of the world, notably California.[4]

A grove of almond trees in southern California

The wild form of domesticated almond grows in parts of the Levant; almonds must first have been taken into cultivation in this region. The fruit of the wild forms contains the glycoside amygdalin, ``which becomes transformed into deadly prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) after crushing, chewing, or any other injury to the seed.``[5]

However, domesticated almonds are not toxic; Jared Diamond argues that a common genetic mutation causes an absence of glycoside amygdalin, and this mutant was grown by early farmers, ``at first unintentionally in the garbage heaps, and later intentionally in their orchards``.[6] Zohary and Hopf believe that almonds were one of the earliest domesticated fruit trees due to ``the ability of the grower to raise attractive almonds from seed. Thus, in spite of the fact that this plant does not lend itself to propagation from suckers or from cuttings, it could have been domesticated even before the introduction of grafting``.[5] Domesticated almonds appear in the Early Bronze Age (3000–2000 BC) of the Near East, or possibly a little earlier. A well-known archaeological example of the almond is the fruit found in Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt (c. 1325 BC), probably imported from the Levant.[5] The domesticated form can be found as far north as Iceland[7] although the official distribution of the plant in Europe shows the most northerly country to be Germany.[8]

Etymology and names

The word ``almond`` comes from Old French almande or alemande, Late Latin amandola, derived through a form amingdola from the Greek αμυγδαλη (cf amygdala), an almond. The al- for a- may be due to a confusion with the Arabic article al, the word having first dropped the a- as in the Italian form mandorla; the British pronunciation ah-mond and the modern Catalan ametlla and modern French amande show a form of the word closer to the original.

The adjective ``amygdaloid`` (literally ``like an almond``) is used for things which are roughly almond-shaped, particularly a shape which is partway between a rectangle and an ellipse.

Almond is called لوز lawz in Arabic and baadaam in Persian, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, Turkish, Urdu and Kashmiri. In German almond is called ``Mandel``, as well as ``Almond``. In Hebrew almond is called שקד shaqed, which has its roots in an ancient Semitic term, as seen in the Akkadian šiqdu and Ugaritic thaqid, as well as in old Ethiopic terms.

Production

An almond shaker before and during a harvest of a tree

Global production of almonds is around 1.7 million tonnes, with a low of 1 million tonnes in 1995 and a peak of 1.85 million tonnes in 2002 according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) figures.[9] According to the FAO, world production of almonds was 1.76 million tonnes in 2006.

Major producers are the USA (715623 t, 41%), Spain (220000 t, 13%), Syria (119648 t, 7%), Italy (112796 t, 6%), Iran (108677 t, 6%) and Morocco (83000 t, 5%). Algeria, Tunisia and Greece each account for 3%, Turkey, Lebanon and China each account for 2%.[10] In Turkey, most of the production comes from the Datça Peninsula. In Spain, numerous commercial cultivars of sweet almond are produced, most notably the Jordan almond (imported from Málaga) and the Valencia almond.

In the United States, production is concentrated in California, with almonds being California's third leading agricultural product and its top agricultural export in 2008. California produces 80% of the world’s almonds[citation needed] and 100% of the U.S. commercial supply. California exported almonds valued at 1.08 billion dollars in 2003, about 70% of total California almond crop.

Importing over 94 percent of its consumption, India is the largest global and U.S. market for in-shell almonds.[1]

Almond output in 2005 (circles not centered on growing areas within the countries)

Pollination

The pollination of California's almonds is the largest annual managed pollination event in the world, with close to one million hives (nearly half of all beehives in the USA) being trucked in February to the almond groves. Much of the pollination is managed by pollination brokers, who contract with migratory beekeepers from at least 49 states for the event. This business has been heavily impacted by colony collapse disorder.

Diseases

Main article: List of almond diseases Please help improve this section by expanding it. Further information might be found on the talk page. (February 2008)

Sweet and bitter almonds

Flowering (sweet) almond tree Blossom on bitter almond tree

There are two forms of the plant, one (often with white flowers) producing sweet almonds, and the other (often with pink flowers) producing bitter almonds. The kernel of the former contains a fixed oil and emulsion. As late as the early 20th century the oil was used internally in medicine, with the stipulation that it must not be adulterated with that of the bitter almond; it remains fairly popular in alternative medicine, particularly as a carrier oil in aromatherapy, but has fallen out of prescription among doctors.

The bitter almond is rather broader and shorter than the sweet almond, and contains about 50% of the fixed oil which also occurs in sweet almonds. It also contains the enzyme emulsin which, in the presence of water, acts on a soluble glucoside, amygdalin, yielding glucose, cyanide and the essential oil of bitter almonds, which is nearly pure benzaldehyde. Bitter almonds may yield from 4–9 mg of hydrogen cyanide per almond.[11][12] Extract of bitter almond was once used medicinally, but even in small doses effects are severe and in larger doses can be deadly; the cyanide must be removed before consumption.[13]

Culinary uses

Smoked and salted almonds

While the almond is often eaten on its own, raw or toasted, it is also a component of various dishes. It, along with other nuts, is often sprinkled over desserts, particularly sundaes and other ice cream based dishes. Sweet almonds are used in marzipan, nougat, many pastries and cookies (including French macarons, Macaroons, Financiers), noghl and other sweets and desserts. They are also used to make almond butter, a spread similar to peanut butter, popular with peanut allergy sufferers and for its less salty taste. The young, developing fruit of the almond tree can be eaten whole (``green almonds``) when they are still green and fleshy on the outside and the inner shell has not yet hardened. The fruit is somewhat sour, but is a popular snack in parts of the Middle East eaten dipped in salt to balance the sour taste. Available only from mid April to mid June (northern hemisphere), pickling or brining extends the fruit's shelf life.

In Italy, sweet almonds are the base for amaretti (almond macaroons), a common dessert. Traditionally, a low percentage of bitter almonds (10-20%) is added to the ingredients, which gives the cookies their bitter taste (commercially, apricot kernels are used as a substitute for bitter almonds). Almonds are also a common choice as the nuts to include in torrone. In Puglia and Sicily ``pasta di mandorle`` (almond paste) is used to make small soft cakes, often decorated with jam, pistacchio or chocolate.

In Greece, ground blanched almonds are used as the base material in a great variety of desserts, usually called amygdalota (αμυγδαλωτά). Because of their white colour, most are traditionally considered ``wedding sweets`` and are served at wedding banquets.

In China, almonds are used in a popular dessert where they are mixed with milk and then served hot.

In Pakistan and India, almonds are the base ingredients of pasanda-style curries. Badam halva is a sweet made from almonds with added coloring. Almond flakes are added to many sweets (such as sohan barfi) and are usually visible sticking to the outer surface.

Almonds can be processed into a milk substitute called almond milk; the nut's soft texture, mild flavour, and light colouring (when skinned) make for an efficient analog to dairy, and a soy-free choice, for lactose intolerant people, vegans, and so on. Raw, blanched, and lightly toasted almonds all work well for different production techniques, some of which are very similar to that of soymilk and some of which actually use no heat, resulting in ``raw milk`` (see raw foodism).

The Marcona variety of almond, which is shorter, rounder, sweeter, and more delicate in texture than other varieties, originated in Spain and is becoming popular in North America and other parts of the world.[14] Marcona almonds are traditionally served after being lightly fried in oil, and are also used by Spanish chefs to prepare a dessert called turrón.

Almond syrup

Historically, almond syrup was an emulsion of sweet and bitter almonds usually made with barley syrup (orgeat syrup) or in a syrup of orange-flower water and sugar.