All About Almonds
Sweet almonds come from the Prunus dulcis tree or bush, which grows between 6 and 26 feet (2 - 8 meters) in height. The genus includes plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots, commonly known as "stone fruit."
The almond is different from these fruits because the seed is edible while the mesocarp and exocarp, which is the fleshy part of a fruit like a cherry, are hard and inedible. When an almond grows on a tree, it has two hard layers. The first, called the hull, splits when the nut is ripe and usually still on the tree and the second one, called the shell, must be cracked to retrieve the nut.
Where Did Almonds Come From?
Almonds were probably first cultivated in south-west Asia and made their way through to the Middle East several thousand years ago.
Almonds are mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible several times. God chose Aaron by letting his almond rod sprout and bear almonds overnight (Numbers 17:8). A Greek legend tells of the almond being born out of a drop of blood shed by the demon Agdistis born of Cybele.
In Germany, they are grown in areas where wine grapes are also cultivated and were likely introduced by the Romans along the Rhine and Mosel rivers, 2000 years ago. This makes them an old food source for the German culture.
Although they grew in sheltered areas along the temperate rivers in Germany, they were more widespread in Italy and Spain. Almonds were probably an import and trade item within Germany and therefore more expensive and rarer than the native hazelnut.