The almond (Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D.A.Webb, 1967), also known by other scientific synonyms: Amygdalus communis L. and Prunus amygdalus Batsch. it is a medium-sized fruit tree belonging to the Rosaceae family (genus prunus).
From a systematic point of view the almond belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantæ, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Rosales Order, Rosaceae Family, Subfamily Prunoideae and therefore to the Genus Prunus and to the Specie P. dulcis.
We find the term Prunus already cited in Pliny and is probably a Latinization of the Greek προῦμνη proúmne susino; we find it however in Theophrastus and Dioscorides, plausibly derived from a pre-Greek language of Asia Minor. The specific epithet dulcis obviously derives from sweet, sweet, attractive, pleasant, delightful.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The almond is native to South-Western Asia. In its domestic form it can also ripen its fruit at the latitude north of the British Isles. But the ideal habitat of the almond is in warm temperate climates with mild winters, although able to withstand winter temperatures of -15, -20 ° C, and low rainfall, typical of the Mediterranean basin. The best exposures are in the south, south-east and south-west, which illuminate the entire crown.
The almond tree is a small medium-sized tree (up to 5-7 m tall), deciduous and broad-leaved. It is a relatively slow growing plant and is very long-lived; for this reason there are several centuries-old specimens. It presents a stem-like root and stem at first straight and smooth and gray, then twisted, chapped and dark. The leaves are up to 12 cm long, lanceolate and petiolate. It has flowers, white or slightly pink with a diameter of up to 5 cm, which have 5 sepals, 5 petals, 40 stamens (arranged on three whorls) and a pistil with semi-inferior ovary. The flowers of this species bloom at the beginning of spring; the almond is among the most precocious blossoms and where the climate is mild, even between January and February (with exceptions even in the month of December). The fruit is a nuculanio, a kind of drupe partially or entirely dry, sometimes dehiscent. The dimensions are between 30-45 (50) mm, ovoid or oblong-oblong, laterally compressed, greenish-gray, velvety with coriaceous mesocarp, with a sour and bitter taste; the endocarp is woody with foveole and arista and edule seed.
The almond is cultivated basically for its seed which is called almond. Some varieties of almond are also used in wood and endocarps which, when reduced to ashes, are exploited in the soap and leaches industry. After harvesting the almond is cleaned from the husk (smallatura) that covers the woody shell and dried in the sun; drying allows conservation even for long periods and marketing. It must be remembered that some of the varieties are sterile cars; for this reason, in order to have the fructification, at least two different varieties for pollination must be planted, or present. Some varieties are partially self-fertilized and with only one variety the production would be limited; for this reason they take advantage of cross-pollination.
The almond bears fruit on the branches of the year and on the young bunches of the month of May.
The almond tree reproduces mainly from seed (via sessuata) or from grafting (vegetative way). The use of the seed is still a widespread technique, able to grow healthy and lush trees. This type of technique has allowed over time to keep local varieties alive. The seed is also used to produce the rootstocks francs, those most used for vegetative reproduction in the domestic orchard. The semi-rooted seed potato is obtained from both sweet and bitter almonds. This is able to adapt to difficult, very dry soils. Moreover, it has an excellent affinity of grafting with the different varieties, giving life to vigorous and long-lived almond trees.
Among the most common rootstocks we mention:
the GF 677; the one most used in large almond orchards. It adapts well to various types of soil, with the exception of very clayey ones. It can be used in both irrigation and dry crops. It induces strong vigor, rapid entry into production and high productivity.
PS A6; this rootstock is nothing but the franc from the peach seed. It is a vigorous rootstock, which guarantees a quick entry into production. However, it is less resistant to drought and is more sensitive to diseases, so it is only used in irrigated almond orchards.
The planting can vary according to various characteristics (type of soil, irrigation possibilities, intensive techniques, etc. but for a good quality of the product, in order not to exploit the soil too much and to adopt environmentally friendly cultivation techniques we recommend the sixth 6 x 6 which gives even greater possibilities for mechanization of the collection.
The almond is distinguished by different characteristics of the fruit; so we can have the following varieties:
• bitter, whose seeds contain hydrogen cyanide;
• dulcis, whose seeds are used in food, in the confectionery industry and for the extraction of officinal almond oil;
• fragilis (or sticciamani), with sweet seed, but not woody endocarp.
Following are just some of the most common cultivars:
• among the late flowering autofertiles: Filippo Ceo, Genco, Tuono, Supernova;
• among late flowered self-sterling: Ferragnes, Fra Giulio, Falsa Barese;
• among other things, they are worth remembering for some important characteristics or for the area where the following cultivars are cultivated: Fascionello, Ferraduel, Jordanolo, Pizzuta d’Avola.
Regarding the main adversities affecting the almond tree are insects and fungi. The most important insects are the cimicetta (Monosteira unicostata), the campa (Malacosoma neustria) and the beetle Anthonomus amygdali; the most important fungal diseases are the Armillaria, the Corineo of the drupaceous plants, the Cancer of the drupaceous plants and the Moniliosi.
The almond tree is a mellifera plant, but honey is produced only in some areas of the south where the plant is more present. Moreover, the early flowering (from January to March) of the plants allows honey to be harvested only in areas that are not too cold, so where the bees can also be drunk during flowering.
Uses and Traditions –
The almond is the symbol of rebirth and hope thanks to its immediate flourishing with the arrival of spring. Its fruit, almond is instead a symbol of mystery, of a truth that can only be reached through a great effort or a test to be overcome (the breaking of the shell). Almond is also associated with knowledge.
The almond is revered in many cultures and is mentioned many times in the Bible: among other things, the almond tree is present in Syria and Israel. The Hebrew name, “agitated”, “shaken”, means laborious or vigilant, since the almond tree is one of the first trees to bloom in Israel, usually at the beginning of February, coinciding with the Tu BiShvat (ט”ו בשבט ṭū bišḇāṭ), a Jewish holiday also called the New Year of the trees. Since ancient times, the almond has been a symbol of promise for its early flowering, symbolizing the sudden and rapid redemption of God for His people after a period in which it seemed to have abandoned it; see for example Jeremiah 1,11-12. In the Bible the almond is mentioned ten times, beginning with Genesis 43.11, where almonds are mentioned as one of the “most chosen products of the country”.
Domestic almond trees appear in the early part of the Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC). An archaeological example of almond tree are the fruits found in the tomb of Tutankamon in Egypt (around 1325 BC), probably imported from the Levant.
The almond was introduced to Sicily by the Phoenicians, from Greece, so much so that the Romans called it “Greek walnut”. Later it was also widespread in France and Spain and in all the Mediterranean countries. In America it was introduced in the sixteenth century. The species of wild almond grow in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Levant; the almond trees were initially cultivated in this region. Due to its origin, the Romans called it “Greek walnut”.
The fruit of the wild almond contains a glucoside: amygdalin, which transforms into deadly hydrogen cyanide after damage to the seed. After the cultivation and taming, the almonds became edible: no doubt they were roasted to eliminate their toxicity. Almonds are a precious reserve of vitamin E and mineral salts, especially magnesium, iron and calcium. Among the oil seeds are those that have the highest fiber content (12%).
Thanks to the high percentage of “good” fats, almonds are among the most important anti-cholesterol foods because they lower the level of cholesterol in the blood, contributing to the health of arteries and heart. They are a powerful natural antioxidant, preserve youthfulness, skin beauty and hair wellbeing. Thanks to the high quantities of iron they are a good remedy against anemia, while calcium makes them precious for bone health. Some studies have also shown that almonds have positive effects on those with type 2 diabetes, improving sensitivity to insulin. Almonds are also extracted from an oil widely used in natural cosmetics for its soothing and emollient properties.
Domestic almonds are not toxic; according to Jared Diamond it seems that a genetic mutation has led to the disappearance of the glucoside amygdalin; these mutating and subsequently selected specimens were cultivated by ancient farmers. According to some scholars, almonds were one of the first fruit trees to be cultivated thanks to the skill of fruit growers to select fruits. Thus in spite of the fact that this plant does not lend itself to propagation by sucker or by cutting, it almost certainly had to be tamed even before the invention of the graft.
Preparation Mode –
Almond is definitely one of the most versatile fruits for use in the kitchen. They range from drinks, condiments, desserts.
Almond almonds flour, rich in proteins, sugars and vitamin E are obtained by grinding dried almonds. In the regions of Southern Italy, almonds are the protagonists of many gastronomic preparations, such as almond paste or marzipan. , also called real pasta.
Among the drinks we remember almond milk which is a vegetable drink rich in calcium. There are numerous recipes for its preparation. This vegetable drink contains minerals, fibers and essential fatty acids that contribute to the proper functioning of the digestive and circulatory system. The calcium richness of almond milk derives from the abundant presence of this mineral salt in the fruits themselves. 100 grams of almonds contain in fact about 266 milligrams of calcium.
For the preparation of 1 liter of organic almond milk you will need:
150 gr of peeled organic almonds, 1.2 liters of water, 1 blender, 1 bowl, 1 funnel, 1 glass bottle, 1 strainer and a kitchen towel or filter paper.
Pour the almonds in a bowl after weighing them, cover them with water at room temperature and leave them to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour, so that they soften. So drain and keep aside the water of the soak, to which you will add the necessary water to reach the quantity of 1.2 liters. Place the almonds on the bottom of a blender and operate it by pouring the necessary water little by little. Continue to blend for a few minutes in order to chop the almonds as finely as possible. When you have finished, you can filter the almond milk with a colander, a kitchen towel or filter paper and transfer it into the glass bottle with the help of a funnel, squeezing the almond pulp well. To make your almond milk sweeter and more full-bodied, you can think of adding one or two dates, one dried apricot, or two or three slices of banana. If you intend to use almond milk for salty preparations, you can add it with a pinch of whole sea salt.
Of course, depending on the tools you have, the variants for preparing almond milk are varied.
The fruit, as it is known, can also be consumed fresh but, as mentioned, to the variety of bitter almonds: they contain a toxic substance that can be inactivated only after a long cooking time. The extract of these seeds can however be used, in small quantities, for some preparations, including amaretti.
However, from the use of almonds as well as harvested or salted, toasted, chopped, etc., you can prepare very varied recipes that refer to specialized publications on the subject.
We can include some dishes prepared with these:
Rocket and almond pesto, almond chicken, lamb tajine with prunes and almonds, almond crust salmon, gluten-free almond cake, almond biscuits, cocoa-praline almonds, almond parfait with chocolate sauce, almond crunch . In short, there is the embarrassment of choice and imagination.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.