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Friday, January 17, 2014 (read 2054 times)

Spanish Almonds

by Tyson

Spain is something of a nutty country; besides long-standing traditions of chestnut and hazelnut growing, almonds have been an important crop here for over 1,000 years.

Spain is the world’s second largest producer of almonds (after the US), where consumers often enjoy them raw or toasted as a nut-ritious and savory snack. Almonds also add a decidedly nutty flavor to the comforting Spanish soup favorite “ajo blanco” and to Spain’s Christmas-time classic turrón, an almond-honey blend that has sweetened holiday seasons for centuries.

Almond Blossom in Spain

Almond growing in Spain is concentrated along Mediterranean regions such as Andalusia, Murcia, Valencia, Catalonia, and the Balearic Islands. From mid January to mid February, visitors to these areas find themselves treated to a visual feast, a time when almond trees erupt into full bloom clothing themselves with delicate white and pink blossoms and gracing panoramic Spanish landscapes with unique elegance. Mild winters, particularly in the areas in southern Spain make the trip particularly appealing.  

Almond Harvesting

Traditional almond harvesting methods are still common in Spain, methods which involve plenty of hard work; first nets are laid on the ground to collect nuts which are then shaken off the wispy branches of the trees. Once collected, each almond is still hidden within its tough hull, a fuzzy, leathery covering known as the drupe which must be removed – not an easy task for weary hands. Although this tedious chore was traditionally done manually, today harvesters with large crop quantities will use an electric de-husker. Then the nuts must be spread out and left to dry in the sun.

Commercial scale growers use a tractor which mechanically unfolds a tarp around the tree, vibrates the tree, and promptly folds the freshly harvested almond-filled tarp back up. This automated harvesting process may take just a matter of seconds for full execution.   

Spanish almonds are celebrated for their exceptional quality and bold taste. Moist textures, given their higher oil content, provide Spanish almond varieties with appealing constancies and rich flavors for health-conscious foodies. Almonds are loaded with essential amino acids and assimilated protein, great nutritional value for guilt-free snacking. Popular types from Spain include the sweet tasting, long-shaped largueta, the sweet marcona variety, planetas, and valencias.

Almond trees are relatively low-maintenance, needing no watering and thriving in the dry climates that characterize their Mediterranean homelands (their cousin the orange tree in comparison needs annual watering). The tree may take two to three years to generate any new nuts and it can continue generating the fruit for over fifty years.

After hundreds of years of delicious almond cultivation traditions, the growing, harvesting and consumption of this special nut will likely carry on pleasing even the most picky palates for centuries to come in Spain.

Keywords: almond blossom,almond trees,spanish almonds,almond harvesting

Posted In: Travel, Spain


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