Almonds are one of Algarve´s typical products.
A reader of My Countryhome blog left a comment with the following questions:
"When you say that you pick the almonds do you really mean that you crawl up into the tree or do you knock the almonds out with a pole? As you indicate, our neglected tree has produced fewer almonds each year, so I would like to get it back into a productive mode.
My memory of the nuts on our tree is that they were bitter. What can one do with bitter almonds?"
Ok. So here are three good questions about almonds. I will try to answer the best I can and indicate a couple resources for further reading.
A: Some of my almond trees are small, I can pick the almonds with my hands, directly from the tree. This takes a lot of time so it´s not the best way to harvest almonds, specially when you have many trees.
With bigger trees we do like this: First we put a big plastic on the ground, near the tree, we knock down the almonds with a pole (cana) and we gather them pulling the plastic borders. The next step is to remove the first layer of skin from all almonds.
A: To put an almond tree back into a productive mode you have to pick every old almond and after that you need to cut all old branches. We cut old branches every two or three years (depending on the tree and it´s condition), in the end of September after the harvesting season.
Question nº 3
A: There are two types of almonds: sweet (Prunus amygdalu var. dulcis) and bitter (Prunus amygdalu var. amara).
We only eat sweet almonds. Sweet almonds are a very healthy type of nut.
Bitter almonds are used to make almond oil which is good as a flavoring agent for foods and liqueurs such as Amaretto and "Amendoa Amarga"/"Amarguinha".
Bitter almonds can not be eaten because they naturally contain toxic substances such as hydrocyanic acid. These compounds are removed in the manufacturing of almond oil which makes them safe to be added in food and drinks as flavoring agents.
To know more about Almonds, their story and nutritional information, I recommend you check these two good resources:
~ The Bittersweet Almond Saga
~ The World´s Healthiest Foods Website