Almonds, a seed of the genus Prunis, is native to the Middle East and South Asia and has been cultivated since historic times. These deciduous trees grow from 15 to 30 feet tall and grow in warm climates highlighted with wet winters. Harvest occurs in the autumn. Trees reach full production in approximately five years. Hulled almonds are most commonly sold with the brown seed coat intact but can also be purchased blanched where the seed coat is exposed to warm water and removed. The United States, primarily in California, account for roughly 75% of the world’s production, followed by Spain, Italy and Iran. Marcona almonds, grown in Spain, have become popular appetizers in recent years.
Interestingly, California’s almond crop requires pollination provided by migratory beekeepers. Bees have been subject to colony collapse disorder negatively affecting pollination and increasing the cost of production.
Almonds are used widely in cooking throughout the world and are the source of almond milk and almond butter. In Iran, green almonds are saturated in salt and eaten as a snack, in Italy they provide the base for amaretti, and in China almonds biscuits, to list a few culinary uses. They are considered a nutritionally rich seed, high in vitamins and essential minerals.