1 I have two almond trees at my farm - both on one side of my main greenhouse. They thrive in mild, wet winters, and hot, dry summers in full sun. I am very fortunate these trees are doing so well in this area.
2 Almond trees are compact, ranging from 15 to 30-feet tall. They are deciduous and grow white to pale pink flowers in early spring. Almonds develop inside small fruits, like the pits of peaches.
3 The leaves of the almond tree are long - about three to five inches. The almond fruit is leathery, and usually referred to as the hull or husk of the seed.
4 The almond fruit measures about two inches long, and is called a drupe. The outer covering, or exocarp, is a thick, grayish green coat, with a downy feel to it. This fruit is not edible.
5 Because we expected heavy rains the day after, we decided it was best to collect all the fallen almond fruits, and any loose ones from the trees. There were many, many to collect.
6 Ang raked them up. Almonds are harvested in the early fall. Many fall from the tree on their own, but tree branches are also tapped or shaken to encourage the nuts to fall.
7 Then, they're picked by hand into a bucket and one by one, their outer husks are removed. Here were Sanu and Laura as they started this process.
8 Usually there is one seed, or what we know as the almond, in each drupe, but occasionally, there will be two.
9 The world produces more than two million tons of almonds per year. In the US, almond production is concentrated in California, with almonds being the state's third-leading agricultural product.
10 Some of the drupes will open on their own, exposing the shells. Most will have to be opened manually. The longer the hulls remain on the nuts after harvest, the more the nut quality deteriorates, so be sure to have a lot of time to hull almonds when you harvest.
11 There are two varieties of almonds - sweet and bitter. The bitter form contains a toxic amount of prussic acid, which is used to make cyanide. These are sweet almonds.
12 Here are drupes showing the outer hulls, and the hard shells containing the almond seeds inside.
13 Shelling almonds refers to removing the hull to reveal the seed, so the almond that is eaten is inside this seed.
14 There were several trug baskets filled to the rim with almonds - very exciting.
15 Sanu and Laura continued to separate the almonds in the flower room.
16 All these drupes were ready to be peeled. It was a time consuming activity, but soon, there will be lots of delicious raw almonds.
17 This is what they looked like once they were removed from the fruit.
18 The almond is a very nutritiously dense food. It's a rich source of vitamins B and E, and is high in calcium, iron, and riboflavin. They are also a rich source of oil. It is high in monounsaturated fats, which is known to lower the risk of heart disease, and lower cholesterol.
19 Once all the almond seeds were removed from the fruits, they were spread out into a single layer and left to dry.
20 We placed them in a very warm, dry section of my basement. These must be dried to reduce the moisture in the kernels. If they aren't dried properly, they will likely produce mold, taste rancid and not store well.
21 After a few days, when these almonds are dry, they should rattle when shaken. The nut inside should also be crisp and brittle. Rubbery kernels need to be dried some more.
22 Before storing almonds, they can be placed in the freezer for a couple of days to to kill any possible storage pests. Delicious, healthy almonds! I can't wait to have some.