|Binomial name||Prunus dulcis|
Other Common Names:
The other common name for the almond is sweet almond.
The origin of almonds is variously given as West or Central Asia; yet due to many millennia of cultivation, their original distribution cannot be reconstructed. In temperate Europe, almond trees do not thrive, although their cultivation has been tried in the Middle Ages due to the Capitulare de villis (see lovage).Today, the most important producers for the European market are Spain and Italy. Californian almonds are of increasing importance. The English word almond is derived from the French amande, which in turn is a derivative of the old Latin word for almond, amygdalus, literally meaning "tonsil plum." Ancient Romans also referred to almonds as "Greek nuts," since they were first cultivated in Greece.
Prunus dulcis is a small, shrubby, deciduous tree. Flowering occurs before or with leaves emerging. Flowers are generally obligately cross-pollinated (most varieties are self-incompatible). Pollination occurs by insects. Plants become mature at 3-4 years old. Leaves alternate, simple, petiolate.
Almond is native to the eastern Mediterranean, especially Jordan, Iran and the Middle East. Introduced to southern Europe and widely cultivated in all countries bordering in the Mediterranean, particularly Spain and Italy, as well as California.
Almond prefers sun and well-drained soil. Almond does well in the hot, dry interior valleys of California, where the nuts mature satisfactorily. Almonds need ample rainfall or irrigation water for maximum production of well-filled almond nuts.
In India, trees are raised from seedlings, the seeds usually having a chilling requirement. Seeds are sown in nurseries, the seedlings transplanted after about one year. For special types, as in the U.S., scions are budded or grafted on to bitter or sweet almond, apricot, myrobalan, peach or plum seedlings. Trees are planted 6-8 m apart and irrigated, in spite of their drought tolerance. Application of nitrogenous and/or organic fertilizers is said to improve yield. Trees should be pruned to a modified leader system. All types are self-sterile so cvs or seedlings should be mixed. Fruits occur mainly on shoot spurs, which remain productive up to five years. Bearing trees may be pruned of surplus branches to about 20% of the old-bearing wood. Tree exhibiting decline may be severely cut back at the top. In India, the trees bear from July to September. Fruits are harvested when the flesh splits open exposing the stone. The flesh is then removed from the stones manually or by machine.
The flowers are white or pale pink with five petals, produced singly or in pairs before the leaves in early spring.
Pests and Diseases
Shot hole, brown rot and anthracnose are major almond diseases. Almond tree also faces problems by Citrus red mite and Southern fire. Brown rot is worse during rain or fog at bloom. Therefore brown rot is a bigger problem in northern growing areas. The same is true of shot hole. Fungicides that are effective for controlling these diseases must be applied preventatively before a rain but a model developed to forecast shot hole incidence is available for validation and could help reduce sprays for this disease.
Almond kernal and expressed oil are the most commonly used parts of the almond tree for its commercial and medicinal purposes.
• Almond milk is still drunk as a kidney tonic and to ease heartburn.
• Almond oil is light, easily absorbed by the skin and can help to alleviate itching eczema.
• Taken internally, it acts as a laxative.
• They have a special dietetic value and are therefore often made into flour for cakes and biscuits for patients suffering from diabetes.
• The oil contains glucodides, minerals and vitamins and in rich in protein.
• Sweet almonds are the familiar edible type consumed as nuts and used in cooking or as a source of almond oil or almond meal.
• It keeps well and makes an excellent massage oil either on its own, or used as a carrier oil for selected essential oils in aromatherapy.
• Ground almonds are also beneficial to the skin and make an excellent facial scrub that cleanses and softens.
• Almond oil is good for all skin types and helps to relieve dryness, itching and inflammation.
Originating from Central Asia, the almond tree is one of the symbols of virginity, since its flowers appear well before its leaves.
Almond Blossom Fair a weeklong celebration in Agrigento was started in the thirties as a spring country festival in this valley where there are literally thousands of almond trees. In Phrygian myths the almond tree was considered the father of the world, perhaps because it was the first tree to flower in springtime and in Greek myths the almond was the nut of immortality.
Nowadays this festival, heralding the arrival of the first fruits of spring, is combined with an International Folklore Festival featuring exotic instruments, uninterrupted singing, parades, beauty pageants, traditional puppet shows and open-air performances galore. All kinds of Sicilian sweets made with almonds and almond paste are served along with almond ice cream underneath the flowered balconies. People show up from everywhere, wearing colourful costumes and performing in the streets of the city. There's also a Sicilian cart parade and fireworks at the finale.
The Greek myth of Phyllis & Demophoon is a sad love story much like Romeo & Juliet. Upon Phyllis's suicide she turned into an Almond tree, and when Demophoon visited her she bloomed with white flowers. It seems amongst Wickins that the Almond tree's powers are money, prosperity and wisdom. Almonds in uneven numbers of three, five, or seven are given as tokens of good fortune and happiness for christenings, weddings and religious ordination ceremonies. A combination of shelled almonds and raisins are good luck symbols for Jews.
A very long time ago lived a young Indian from Amazonia called Iaca. Her father was chief of a tribe that had become so large that there was not enough food left to feed the people. So the chief decided that each newborn baby would have to be killed. His own daughter gave birth to a baby just after he had taken this decision. Iaca has been crying her child's death for days alone in her hut. But one evening she had the strange feeling that she could hear her baby crying. When she went out to look for the the child, she saw a palm tree covered with fruits coming out of the soil.
Totally desesperate, she lied down under the tree and died. The day after, the tribe discovered Iaca's body under the new tree. Its fruits satisfied people's hunger and brought them back all their energy. The chief, then, abrogated his cruel order and declared that these fruits would take her daughter's name but in reverse order (Iaca becoming Acai). Thanks to the abundance of açai fruits, the tribe grew and prospered and, since now decades the acai has been highly appreciated by Brazilian people. In the fifties, doctors started to realize that the açai could be also good for health.