Almonds
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Our English word “Almond” comes from the Old French word “Almande” or “Alemande” which in turn is derived from the Latin word “Amandula” which in turn again is from the Greek “Amygdala,” meaning an Almond. The “Al” sound in English versus the “Am” sound in French, Latin, Greek, etc. is likely a mistaken inclusion of the article (“al” means “the” in Arabic) in the  adoption of the word Almond by the English. The French word for Almond is “Amande” and the modern British pronunciation is “ah-mond.” The German word for Almonds is “Mandel” and the Italian word for Almond is “mandorlo,” both arguing against the inclusion of “al.”

Season

Green Almonds are a delicacy and in season from April - June. Green Almonds are the young developing Almond fruit which is eaten whole or seasoned before the shell hardens.

Availability

Almonds are available year round.

Cultivation

Almonds are not Nuts but Fruits. In fact, Almonds which are the edible seeds of Almond Trees (prunus dulcis) are closer to Peach pits. The major difference is that Peaches grow a pulpy fruit around the Seed and Almonds grow a leathery husk around their seed. Almonds are the 1-2 inch long (3.5 cm - 6 cm) seed (or sometimes seeds) of the drupe fruit. The Almond tree, native to the Middle East and South Asia, is considered to be one of the earliest domesticated nut trees. Almond groves were planted and harvested in the Early Bronze Age (3,000 to 2,000 B.C.) at sites such as Numeria in Jordan. Almonds are mentioned 10 times in The Bible.

No one knows the exact date of the discovery of the edible Sweet Almond but at some point an un-heralded and fortunate soul in the Levant lived through his Almond experience, avoiding the poisonous, cyanide-producing Bitter Almond and instead sampling the edible Sweet Almond, which once identified, was later cultivated. Almond production spread because Sweet Almond trees could be grown from Seeds, unlike other agricultural products that must be grafted. Almonds were found in Egypt (in King Tut’s tomb from 1300 B.C.), around the Mediterranean, in Southern Europe, in India and Northern Africa.  In modern times Almond cultivation has spread to the rest of the world, particularly in California.

In 2010, 2.51 million tons of Almonds were produced on earth. The largest producer was the United States (1.41 million tons) and California grew the bulk of the domestic Almonds. Almond Trees yield an economic crop 3 years after they are planted but take 5-6 years to reach their full productivity. Almonds are a fall fruit, maturing 7-8 months after the tree flowers.

Production

California grows about 99% of the United States Almonds. Each Almond needs about 1.1 gallons of water to reach maturity.

Varieties

As inferred above, there are two major variants of Almonds, Sweet Almonds and Bitter Almonds. Almost all commercial Almonds are the Sweet Almond cultivar which does not produce prussic acid which in turn can produce deadly cyanide. All commercially grown Almonds are Sweet Almonds.

Purchasing

When purchasing Almonds in the package, look for a “best before date” on bag, can or jar. If you can see the Almonds, they should be plump and uniform in size. They should not be limp or squishy looking. You should not see any signs of moisture inside the bag or jar. When opened, or if buying from a bulk bin, the Almonds themselves should not smell musty or rancid. You should not see any mold or dark discolorations. Moldy Almonds should be avoided and/or discarded.

Storage

Most of us will be purchasing and using dried, blanched or roasted Almonds, out of the shell which will have good moisture levels. However all Almonds, including dried or roasted Almonds, still have a high Fat content which can turn Rancid very easily if not properly stored. Keep Almonds away from heat and light. Store purchased Almonds in an airtight container.

Culinary Uses

You will be able to find Shelled and Un-Shelled raw Almonds for cooking (most often since 2007 technically pasteurized and not raw), Roasted Almonds (for snacking), ground Almond Paste (for desserts) and chopped Almonds (to garnish pastries and dishes) at the grocery store. Almonds can also be Blanched to soften the seed which is then removed to reveal the white embryo. Some blanched Almonds are then Deep Fried and used to decorate sweet Morrocan Tajines. The Marcona Almond is a cultivar of Sweet Almond and is usually marketed by name.

Almond Flour (used in baking), Almond Butter, Almond Oil, Almond Syrup and Almond Milk are all also available. Almonds are used in many pastries and cookies including: Jesuites, French Macarons (macaroons), Financiers, Noghl, Chinese Almond Cookies (Almond Biscuits), Torrone, and other treats.

Portion Size

Allow 3-6 Almonds per person.

Pairings

Anise, Cardamom, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Lavender, Paprika, Salt, Kosher Salt, Sea Salt, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Granulated Sugar, Vanilla, Rosemary, Apples, Apricots, Blackberries, Cherries, Coconut, Cranberries, Currants, Figs, Grapes, Lemons, Nectarines, Oranges, Passion Fruit, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Raisins, Strawberries, Chocolate, Greens, Salads, Garlic, Olives, Rhubarb, Butter, Unsalted Butter, Cheese, Goat Cheese, Ricotta Cheese, Cream, Cream Cheese, Creme Fraiche, Ice Cream, Mascarpone, Milk, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Walnuts, Chicken, Eggs, Crab, Fish, Lamb, Rice, Beans, Olive Oil, Honey, Coffee, Sherry, Rum

Nutritional Value USDA
ALMONDS
Amount Per 100g
Calories 579
%Daily Value*
 
75%
Total Fat 49g
2%
Saturated Fat 3g
Polyunsaturated Fat 12g
Monounsaturated Fat 31g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 1mg
15%
Potassium 733mg
7%
Total Carbohydrate 21g
48%
Dietary Fiber 12g
Sugars 4g
Protein 21g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Almonds are 49% Fat, 21% Protein and 26% Carbohydrate, which makes them a good candidate for milling into Almond Flour which is good for low-carb diets.

Almonds are a good source of Riboflavin (1 mg per 100 g), Niacin (3.4 mg per 100 g), Vitamin E (26 mg per 100 g) and have a decent amount (12%) of Dietary Fiber. As with most Nuts and Seeds, Almonds also contain Phytosterols, Flavonols, and Polyphenols.

Proponents claim that Almonds can improve the complexion and potentially help lower the risks of cancer. Science has shown that Almonds can help lower several risks for heart disease, including Cholesterol and Lipids in the blood.

There are a number of people who are allergic to Almonds and who can experience symptoms ranging from a rash to deadly anaphylaxis. Always be careful to alert your diners to the presence of Almonds in your cooking.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

No

Low Calorie

No