The Almond (Prunus dulcis, syn. Prunus amygdalus Batsch., Amygdalus communis L., Amygdalus dulcis Mill.) is a species of tree native to the Middle East. Almond is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated seed of this tree. Within the genus Prunus, it is classified with Peach in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated shell (endocarp) surrounding the seed.

The fruit of the almond is not a true nut, but a drupe, which consists of an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed (nut) inside. Shelling almonds refers to removing the shell to reveal the seed. Almonds are commonly sold shelled, i.e. after the shells are removed, or unshelled, i.e. with the shells still attached. Blanched almonds are shelled almonds that have been treated with hot water to soften the seedcoat, which is then removed to reveal the white


Description

The almond is a small deciduous tree, growing to between 4 and 10 meters in height, with a trunk of up to 30 centimetres in diameter. The young twigs are green at first, becoming purplish where exposed to sunlight, then grey in their second year. The leaves are 3–5 inches long[1], with a serrated margin and a 2.5 cm (1 in) petiole. The flowers are white or pale pink, 3–5 cm diameter with five petals, produced singly or in pairs before the leaves in early spring.

Almond trees become productive and begin bearing fruit after five years. The fruit is mature in the autumn, 7–8 months after flowering.

In botanical terms, the almond fruit is not a nut, but a drupe 3.5–6 cm long. The outer covering or exocarp, fleshy in other members of Prunus such as the plum and cherry, is instead a thick leathery grey-green coat (with a downy exterior), called the hull. Inside the hull is a reticulated hard woody shell (like the outside of a peach pit) called the endocarp. Inside the shell is the edible seed, commonly called a nut. Generally, one seed is present, but occasionally there are two.



Origin and history :

The almond is a native to the Mediterranean climate region of the Middle East, eastward as far as Pakistan. It was spread by humans in ancient times along the shores of the Mediterranean into northern Africa and southern Europe and more recently transported to other parts of the world, notably California.

 
A grove of almond trees in southern CaliforniaThe wild form of domesticated almond grows in parts of the Levant; almonds must first have been taken into cultivation in this region. The fruit of the wild forms contains the glycoside amygdalin, "which becomes transformed into deadly prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) after crushing, chewing, or any other injury to the seed.

However, domesticated almonds are not toxic; Jared Diamond argues that a common genetic mutation causes an absence of glycoside amygdalin, and this mutant was grown by early farmers, "at first unintentionally in the garbage heaps, and later intentionally in their orchards". Zohary and Hopf believe that almonds were one of the earliest domesticated fruit trees due to "the ability of the grower to raise attractive almonds from seed. Thus, in spite of the fact that this plant does not lend itself to propagation from suckers or from cuttings, it could have been domesticated even before the introduction of grafting". Domesticated almonds appear in the Early Bronze Age (3000–2000 BC) of the Near East, or possibly a little earlier. A well-known archaeological example of the almond is the fruit found in Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt (c. 1325 BC), probably imported from the Levant.The domesticated form can be found as far north as Iceland although the official distribution of the plant in Europe shows the most northerly country to be Germany.

Etymology and names :

The word "almond" comes from Old French almande or alemande, Late Latin amandola, derived through a form amingdola from the Greek αμυγδαλη (cf amygdala), an almond. The al- for a- may be due to a confusion with the Arabic article al, the word having first dropped the a- as in the Italian form mandorla; the British pronunciation ah-mond and the modern Catalan ametlla and modern French amande show a form of the word closer to the original.

The adjective "amygdaloid" (literally "like an almond") is used for things which are roughly almond-shaped, particularly a shape which is partway between a rectangle and an ellipse.

Almond is called لوز lawz in Arabic and baadaam in Persian, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, Turkish, Urdu and Kashmiri. In German almond is called "Mandel", as well as "Almond". In Hebrew almond is called שקד shaqed, which has its roots in an ancient Semitic term, as seen in the Akkadian šiqdu and Ugaritic thaqid, as well as in old Ethiopic terms

Production :

Global production of almonds is around 1.7 million tonnes, with a low of 1 million tonnes in 1995 and a peak of 1.85 million tonnes in 2002 according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) figures. According to the FAO, world production of almonds was 1.76 million tonnes in 2006.

Major producers are the USA (715623 t, 41%), Spain (220000 t, 13%), Syria (119648 t, 7%), Italy (112796 t, 6%), Iran (108677 t, 6%) and Morocco (83000 t, 5%). Algeria, Tunisia and Greece each account for 3%, Turkey, Lebanon and China each account for 2%. In Turkey, most of the production comes from the Datça Peninsula. In Spain, numerous commercial cultivars of sweet almond are produced, most notably the Jordan almond (imported from Málaga) and the Valencia almond.

In the United States, production is concentrated in California, with almonds being California's third leading agricultural product and its top agricultural export in 2008. California produces 80% of the world’s almonds and 100% of the U.S. commercial supply. California exported almonds valued at 1.08 billion dollars in 2003, about 70% of total California almond crop.

Importing over 94 percent of its consumption, India is the largest global and U.S. market for in-shell almonds

Oils :

Almonds contain approximately 54% oil, of which 78% is monounsaturated oleic acid, an omega-9 fat, and 17% is omega-6 polyunsaturated essential fatty acid. Superunsaturated omega-3 fats are negligible in almonds. The oil is good for application to the skin as an emollient, because it is more stable (does not become rancid) than those oils that have a higher content of essential fatty acids, and because it has a pleasant aroma. It is a mild, lightweight oil that can be used as a substitute for olive oil.

"Oleum Amygdalae", the fixed oil, is prepared from either variety of almond and is a glyceryl oleate, with a slight odour and a nutty taste. It is almost insoluble in alcohol but readily soluble in chloroform or ether. Sweet almond oil is obtained from the dried kernel of sweet almonds. This oil has been traditionally used by massage therapists to lubricate the skin during a massage session


Almond oil is also used as a wood conditioner of certain woodwind instruments, such as the oboe and clarinet.


 
 
 
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