They are a sweet, tasty addition to your diet and the health benefits of almonds are legion. They grow on a tree which is native to the Middle East and South Asia. It is similar to the peach tree. The nut has a corrugated shell around the seed. Almonds are not true nuts, but drupes. A drupe is a fruit in which the outer part (flesh) surrounds a shell (pit or stone) Mandelsteine. In the almond, the outer flesh is somewhat leathery, and called a hull. Almonds are sold shelled (with the shells removed), or unshelled (with the shells attached). They are also available blanched, which means they have been treated with hot water to soften the seed. The seed coat is then removed to reveal the white embryo.
Almond Facts and History
The tree itself is a deciduous tree which grows up to about 33 feet tall, and a little under a foot in diameter. The tree is green at first, become purple when exposed to sunlight and by its second year, the wood has taken on a gray coloring. The leaves are up to 5 inches long, serrated, and the flowers are white or pale pink, with five petals. The trees produce viable almonds in their third year after being planted. A tree is mature after five or six years, and the fruit comes mature in autumn, about 7 or 8 months after flowering.
The almond was spread along the shores of the Mediterranean in ancient times, into northern Africa and southern Europe, and more recently into California, in the United States. It is thought that almonds were first cultivated in the Levant region (Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and the West Bank). The fruit of the wild almond contains amygdalin, which, when the seed is crushed, chewed or otherwise injured, becomes prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide).
Domesticated almonds are not toxic. It is possible that almonds were one of the earliest domesticated fruit trees, because the grower was able to raise attractive fruits from seed. This gave almonds the ability to be propagated from seed, in a time before grafting was not known or well-practiced.