|Alternative names||Prunus dulcis|
|Grows in||California (over 80%), Spain, Australia, Iran, Morocco, Italy, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, etc.|
|The UK imports from||California, Spain|
|Short history||Evidence of cultivated almonds from 3000 BC has been found in Jordan and Egypt, including in the tomb of Tutankhamen. They are thought to have originated in the Levant area, favoured by Eastern Mediterranean climate. The almond has remained an important cultural and religious symbol through the ages. It is mentioned in the Torah, the Jewish Holy Book, and referred to in the Bible as being ‘amongst the best of fruits’. There are also references in Greek Mythology and evidence that the almond has inspired Persian rug making and Religious art of the Renaissance, amongst other art forms. In all cases, the almond is associated with hope, beauty, value and re-birth. The almond tree was brought from Spain to California by the Franciscan Padres in the mid-eighteenth century, but was grown successfully only a century later.|
|Top health benefits||
Almonds, like many foods, are highly dependent on pollination by honey bees. In the Central Valley of California there are approximately 6,500 almond farms but only a quarter of the bees required to pollinate them. To address this, almond farmers “rent” hives from around the country. Each year, bee keepers and their bees from all over America come to California for the largest controlled bee pollination in the world.
Since 2006, beekeepers have been reporting bees disappearing from hives en masse. This phenomenon, named Colony Collapse Disorder, has been attributed to a number of interwoven factors. Climate change has caused flowers to bloom earlier, while the bees are still in hibernation. Pesticides sometimes harm bees rather than just pests and parasites are thought to have attacked bee populations. Commercial development has exacerbated these problems by causing habitat loss. Accordingly, there has been a movement to protect bee colonies, especially in countries where the economy is reliant on pollinated crops.
Almonds make a great standalone snack. Almond milk, which has grown in popularity, can be used as a replacement to cow’s milk in many smoothie recipes, providing many of the health benefits listed above. To experience the almond all its glory, try out the recipes below:
- Moroccan spiced cauliflower and almond soup
With just six ingredients, this wonderfully creamy soup comes together quickly and easily. The Harissa paste and cinnamon spice up the cauliflower. Meanwhile, the toasted almonds play an important role in thickening the soup and finishing it off with a sprinkle of crisp garnish.
- Roasted red pepper, quinoa and almond salad
This salad is characterised by its variety of textures. The soft quinoa, melt-in-your-mouth roasted peppers and smooth spinach are complemented by contrastingly crunchy almonds. The honey, ginger and garlic dressing, which I blended with olive oil rather than soy sauce, bring cohesion to the ingredients. Prepare to be dazzled by this protein-rich salad with a sophisticated sweet twist.
- Orange, blueberry and almond cake
This cake is a reminder that gluten-free cakes can be for everyone. Ground almonds and polenta replace flour to create a lighter cake, which is further softened by natural yogurt. The partnership of tangy orange and sweet blueberries make the cake burst with rich, fruity flavours. If you enjoy this recipe, keep exploring other almond-based cakes, such as lemon or rose and pistachio.