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Almonds, Sometimes I Feel Like A Nut

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20100916almondsFor five years the Chief and I lived in a rural and agricultural area of California.  We lived in a small town of Kerman about 25 miles outside of Fresno.  The town is surrounded by vineyards and almond orchards. Neither the Chief nor I knew much about how almonds were grown until we lived there but we quickly discovered the United States is the largest producer of almonds in the world.  In 2013 the U.S. produced 80% of the world’s almonds!

Almond Orchard
Almond Orchard

California has often been called the breadbasket of the world. In fact, the California Department of Food and Agriculture notes that California is the world’s fifth largest supplier of food and agriculture commodities. Living in central California I can attest to driving miles and miles and the only view was food being grown as far as the eye can see.  It is really quite amazing!

But the almond tree caught me by surprise.  First, the locals say “a-mond” as if the “l” is silent.  In the Midwest we are a little nutty and say “all-mond”.  My speech always gave away I wasn’t a local!  Add in my husband’s slightly southern twang … and you get “aaaa-mond”!

Almond Tree in Bloom by jeffwalker.wordpress.com
Almond Tree in Bloom by jeffwalker.wordpress.com

“I said to the almond tree,
‘Sister, speak to me about God,’
and the almond tree blossomed.”

Greco, famed Greek-born Spanish painter

The almond tree has lovely blossoms and were a sign to me that spring had sprung.  However, I must say my biggest surprise came in the fall when the trees are harvested.  Let me put it this way – there is a lot of shakin’ going on!sweet-almond-mandaline-300x300Machines move through the rows of almond trees mechanically and fiercely shaking the tree causing the almonds to fall to the ground. The nuts are raked into windrows and allowed to dry naturally.

PikiWiki_Israel_7025_Amond_blossomHarvesting was my least favorite part of the almond growing cycle because the process fills the air with a dull-driving sound of the machinery and dust from the process billows for miles around.  This is the time I had to close up my windows and just wait it out.

But oh the end product … so tasty, healthy, and wonderful to use in baking.  Did you know Almonds are actually stone fruits related to cherries, plums and peaches?

I like almonds for the simple fact they are very good for me.  I’ve inherited high cholesterol and almonds are believed to help lower cholesterol, help reduce heart attack risk, help build strong healthy bones and teeth and a whole lot more!
crushed almondsRecently I tossed a whole big bag of almonds into my food processor and let ‘em go.  I ended up with these tiny chopped nuggets of nutrition.  Here are just a few recipes we sprinkle with almond goodness.

healthified baked oatmealBaked oatmeal is a staple at our house! Sprinkling in some chopped almond really give this already healthy dish an even bigger boost.

granola panfulAdding slivered almonds to my homemade baked granola is a no-brainer.

Granola bowlThe nuts stay crunchy and really enhance the flavor of the granola.

Nuts can be pretty expensive depending where you buy them.  I always buy in bulk and have found nuts.com to have an excellent selection for good value.  Click HERE to check them out!

Scripture cake panfulAlmonds are a must-have in my Scripture Cake.
The Bible has a lot to say about almonds.  You can find many scripture references to the blossoms and the nuts, including this one.

They are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—Ecclesiastes 12:5

 Sometimes I feel like a nut … and I always keep almonds, pecans, and walnuts handy for the moment!

Happy Baking!
~Catherine

A few fun facts and health benefits of almonds can be found here:

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-health-benefits-of-almonds-king-of-nuts.html

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