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Botanical Name: Prunus dulcis
Species: P. dulcis
Synonyms: Prunus amygdalus, Amygdalus communis, Amygdalus dulcis
Almond is called: Lawz in Arabic Baadaam in Farsi and Urdu
Habitat : The tree is a native of southwest Asia. The domesticated form can ripen fruit as far north as the British Isles.
The word ‘almond’ comes from Old French almande or alemande, late Latin amandola, derived through a form amingdola from the Greek (cf Amygdala), an almond. The al- for a- may be due to a confusion with the Arabic article al, the word having first dropped the a- as in the Italian form mandorla; the British pronunciation ah-mond and the modern Catalan ametlla and modern French amande show the true form of the word.
The almond is a deciduous tree, growing 4–10 m (13–33 ft) in height, with a trunk of up to 30 cm (12 in) in diameter. The young twigs are green at first, becoming purplish where exposed to sunlight, then grey in their second year. The leaves are 3–5 inches long, with a serrated margin and a 2.5 cm (1 in) petiole. The flowers are white to pale pink, 3–5 cm (1–2 in) diameter with five petals, produced singly or in pairs and appearing before the leaves in early spring. Almond grows best in Mediterranean climates with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. The optimal temperature for their growth is between 15 and 30 °C (59 and 86 °F) and the tree buds have a chilling requirement of between 300 and 600 hours below 7.2 °C (45.0 °F) to break dormancy. The flowers are white or pale pink, 3.5 cm diameter with five petals, produced before the leaves in early spring.
Almonds begin bearing an economic crop in the third year after planting. Trees reach full bearing five to six years after planting. The fruit matures in the autumn, 7–8 months after flowering.
The sweet fleshy outer covering of other members of Prunus, such as the plum and cherry, is replaced by a leathery coat called the hull, which contains inside a hard shell the edible kernel, commonly called a nut in culinary terms. However, in botanical terms, an almond is not a true nut. In botanical parlance, the reticulated hard stony shell is called an endocarp, and the fruit, or exocarp, is a drupe, having a downy outer coat. .
Origin and history
The wild form of domesticated almond grows in the Mediterranean region in parts of the Levant; almonds must first have been taken into cultivation in this region. The fruit of the wild forms contains glycoside amygdalin, “which becomes transformed into deadly Prussic acid (Hydrogen cyanide) after crushing, chewing, or any other injury to the seed.” Before cultivation and domestication occurred, wild almonds were harvested as food and doubtless were processed by leaching or roasting to remove their toxicity.
However, domesticated almonds are not toxic; Jared Diamond argues that a common genetic mutation causes an absence of glycoside amygdalin, and this mutant was grown by early farmers, “at first unintentionally in the garbage heaps and later intentionally in their orchards.” Zohary and Hopf believe that almonds were one of the earliest domesticated fruit-trees due to “the ability of the grower to raise attractive almonds from seed. Thus in spite of the fact that this plant does not lend itself to propagation from suckers or from cuttings, it could have been domesticated even before the introduction of grafting.”Domesticated almonds appear in the Early Bronze Age (3000â€“2000 BC) of the Near East, or possibly a little earlier. A well-known archaeological example of almond is the fruits found in Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt (c. 1325 BC), probably imported from the Levant.
While the almond is most often eaten on its own, raw or toasted, it is used in some dishes. It, along with other nuts, is often sprinkled over desserts, particularly sundaes and other ice cream based dishes. It is also used in making baklava and nougat. There is also almond butter, a spread similar to peanut butter, popular with peanut allergy sufferers and for its less salty taste. The young, developing fruit of the almond tree can also be eaten as a whole (“green almonds”), when it is still green and fleshy on the outside, and the inner shell has not yet hardened. The fruit is somewhat sour, and is available only from mid April to mid June; pickling or brining extends the fruit’s shelf life.
The sweet almond itself contains practically no carbohydrates and may therefore be made into flour for cakes and biscuits for low carbohydrate diets or for patients suffering from diabetes mellitus or any other form of glycosuria. A standard serving of almond flour, 1 cup, contains 20 grammes of carbohydrates, of which 10 g is dietary fibre, for a net of 10 g of carbohydrate per cup. This makes almond flour very desirable for use in cake and bread recipes by people on carbohydrate-restricted diets.
Almonds can be processed into a milk substitute simply called almond milk; the nut’s soft texture, mild flavour, and light colouring (when skinned) make for an efficient analog to dairy, and a soy-free choice, for lactose intolerant persons, vegans, and so on. Raw, blanched, and lightly toasted almonds all work well for different production techniques, some of which are very similar to that of soymilk and some of which actually use no heat, resulting in “raw milk” (see raw foodism).
Sweet almonds are used in marzipan, nougat, and macaroons, as well as other desserts. Almonds are a rich source of Vitamin E, containing 24 mg per 100 g They are also rich in monounsaturated fat, one of the two “good” fats responsible for lowering LDL cholesterol.
The Marcona variety of almond, which is shorter, rounder, sweeter, and more delicate in texture than other varieties, originated in Spain and is becoming popular in North America and other parts of the world Marcona almonds are traditionally served after being lightly fried in oil, and are also used by Spanish chefs to prepare a dessert called turrÃ³n.
In China, almonds are used in a popular dessert when they are mixed with milk and then served hot. In Indian cuisine, almonds are the base ingredient for pasanda-style curries.
Possible health benefits
Edgar Cayce, a man regarded as the father of American holistic medicine, also highly favored the almond. In his readings, Cayce often recommended that almonds be included in the diet. Claimed health benefits include improved complexion, improved movement of food through the colon and the prevention of cancer. Recent research associates inclusion of almonds in the diet with elevating the blood levels of high density lipoproteins and of lowering the levels of low density lipoproteins.
In Ayurveda, the Indian System of Medicine, almond is considered a nutritive for brain and nervous system. It is said to induce high intellectual level and longevity. Almond oil is called Roghan Badam in both Ayurveda and Unani Tibb (the Greco-Persian System of Medicine). It is extracted by cold process and is considered a nutritive aphrodisiac both for massage and internal consumption. Recent studies have shown that the constituents of almond have anti-inflammatory, immunity boosting, and anti-hepatotoxicity effects
Fresh Sweet Almonds possess demulcent and nutrient properties, but as the outer brown skin sometimes causes irritation of the alimentary canal, they are blanched by removal of this skin when used for food. Though pleasant to the taste, their nutritive value is diminished unless well masticated, as they are difficult of digestion, and may in some cases induce nettlerash and feverishness. They have a special dietetic value, for besides containing about 20 per cent of proteids, they contain practically no starch, and are therefore often made into flour for cakes and biscuits for patients suffering from diabetes.
Sweet Almonds are used medicinally, the official preparations of the British Pharmacopoeia being Mistura Amygdalae, Pulvis Amygdalae Compositus and Almond Oil.
On expression they yield nearly half their weight in a bland fixed oil, which is employed medicinally for allaying acrid juices, softening and relaxing solids, and in bronchial diseases, in tickling coughs, hoarseness, costiveness, nephritic pains, etc.
When Almonds are pounded in water, the oil unites with the fluid, forming a milky juice – Almond Milk – a cooling, pleasant drink, which is prescribed as a diluent in acute diseases, and as a substitute for animal milk: an ounce of Almonds is sufficient for a quart of water, to which gum arabic is in most cases a useful addition. The pure oil mixed with a thick mucilage of gum arabic, forms a more permanent emulsion; one part of gum with an equal quantity of water being enough for four parts of oil. Almond emulsions possess in a certain degree the emollient qualities of the oil, and have this advantage over the pure oil, that they may be given in acute or inflammatory disorders without danger of the ill effects which the oil might sometimes produce by turning rancid. Sweet Almonds alone are employed in making emulsions, as the Bitter Almond imparts its peculiar taste when treated in this way.
Blanched and beaten into an emulsion with barley-water, Sweet Almonds are of great use in the stone, gravel, strangury and other disorders of the kidneys, bladder and biliary ducts.
By their oily character, Sweet Almonds sometimes give immediate relief in heartburn. For this, it is recommended to peel and eat six or eight Almonds.
Almonds are also useful in medicine for uniting substances with water. Castor oil is rendered palatable when rubbed up with pounded Almonds and some aromatic distilled water.
The fixed Oil of Almonds is extracted from both Bitter and Sweet Almonds. If intended for external use, it must, however, be prepared only from Sweet Almonds.
The seeds are ground in a mill after removing the reddish-brown powder adhering to them and then subjected to hydraulic pressure, the expressed oil being afterwards filtered and bleached, preferably by exposure to light.
Almond oil is a clear, pale yellow, odourless liquid, with a bland, nutty taste. It consists chiefly of Olein, with a small proportion of the Glyceride of Linolic Acid and other Glycerides, but contains no Stearin. It is thus very similar in composition to Olive Oil (for which it may be used as a pleasant substitute), but it is devoid of Chlorophyll, and usually contains a somewhat larger proportion of Olein than Olive Oil.
It is used in trade, as well as medicinally, being most valuable as a lubricant for the delicate works of watches, and is much employed as an ingredient in toilet soap, for its softening action on the skin. It forms a good remedy for chapped hands
‘The oil newly pressed out of Sweet Almonds is a mitigator of pain and all manner of aches, therefore it is good in pleurisy and colic. The oil of Almonds makes smooth the hands and face of delicate persons, and cleanseth the skin from all spots and pimples.’
The oil of both (Bitter and Sweet) cleanses the skin, it easeth pains of the chest, the temples being annointed therewith, and the oil with honey, powder of liquorice, oil of roses and white wax, makes a good ointment for dimness of sigh.
‘This kind of butter is made of Almonds with sugar and rose-water, which being eaten with violets is very wholesome and commodious for students, for it rejoiceth the heart and comforteth the brain, and qualifieth the heat of the liver.
–To make Almond Cake—(Seventeenth Century)
‘Take one pound of Jordan almonds, Blanch ym into cold water, and dry ym in a clean cloth: pick out these that are nought and rotten: then beat ym very fine in a stone mortar, puting in now and then a little rose water to keep ym from oyling: then put it out into a platter, and half a pound of loaf sugar beaten fine and mixt with ye almonds, ye back of a spoon, and set it on a chafing dish of coals, and let it stand till it be hott: and when it is cold then have ready six whites of eggs beaten with too spoonfuls of flower to a froth, and mix it well with ye almonds: bake ym on catt paper first done over with a feather dipt in sallet oyle.’
—Almond Butter—(Seventeenth Century)
‘Seeth a little French Barly with a whole mace and some anniseeds to sweeten but not to give any sensible tast: then blanch and beat the almonds with some of the clearest of the liquor to make the milke the thicker, and strain them, getting forth by often beating what milk you can: seeth the milke till it thicken and bee ready to rise, and turne it with the juice of a lemon or salt dissolved in rose water: spread the curd on a linnen cloath that the whey may run out, and let it hang till it leave dropping: then season the butter that is left with rose water, and sugar to your liking.’
—To make Almond Milk—(Seventeenth Century)
‘Take 3 pints of running water, a handfull of Raisins of the Sun stoned, halfe a handfull of Sorrell as much violet and strawberry leaves, halfe a handfull of the topps and flowers of burrage (borage), as much of Buglass, halfe a handfull of Endive, as much Succory, some Pauncys (Pansies), a little broad time and Orgamen (Marjoram), and a branch or two of Rosemary, lett all these boyle well together; then take a good handfull of French Barley, boyling it in three waters, put it to the rest, and lett them boyle till you think they are enough, then pour the liquor into a basin, and stampe the barley and reasons, straining them thereto; then take a quarter of a pound of Sweet Almonds, blanch them and pound them thrice, straining them to the other liquor; then season it with damask rosewater to your liking.’
—A Paste for ye Hands—(Seventeenth Century)
‘Take a pound of sun raysens, stone and take a pound of bitter Almonds, blanch ym and beat ym in stone morter, with a glass of sack take ye peel of one Lemond, boyle it tender; take a quart of milk, and a pint of Ale, and make therewith a Possett; take all ye Curd and putt it to ye Almonds: yn putt in ye Rayson: Beat all these till they come to a fine Past, and putt in a pott, and keep it for ye use.
*Almonds form an ideal tonic for your growing child. Soak 3-6 shelled almonds in warm water and than remove the skin. Grind them into paste, and mix it with milk. Add a teaspoon of honey. Feed your child daily. It can also be useful in adolescent girls with delayed puberty; crushed almonds, egg yolk, gingelly (til) powder, and a teaspoon of honey in milk will ensure good overall development during adolescence.
*An excellent food supplement in case of general debility and convalescence. Soak 12-15 shelled almonds in hot water and remove outer covering. Grind them into fine paste, and mix it with the buttermilk and mash a ripe banana in it. Strain it through a muslin cloth, add 4 teaspoons honey, and drink twice daily. Almond forms an ideal food for diabetics also as it contains little carbohydrates.
*Almonds increase libido and enhance general sexual performance in cases of frigidity. Grind a few almonds and 2-3 pinches of saffron and eat everyday for 40 days.
*Almonds are a good for constipation. Grind separately 5 teaspoons almonds and 5 teaspoons dried dates. Combine them and add 10 teaspoons honey. Take 3 teaspoons of this mixture twice daily.
*In the case of head lice, grind 7-8 kernels with 1-2 teaspoons lime juice and apply on the scalp. Apply a little almond oil on the scalp regularly and massage.
*In the case of tooth ache and gum diseases, burn the shells of almonds, powder, and use as tooth powder.
*To get relief from psoriasis and allied skin troubles, powder a few almonds, boil and apply on affected areas and let it remain overnight.
*To improve skin complexion, mix equal quantities of almond oil and honey and apply to face. To protect from sunburn, apply the paste of almonds and milk cream along with coconut oil on exposed skin.
*In the case of insomnia, grind blanched almonds (8-10) along with khuskhus grass powder (1 teaspoon) and milk (half teacup) and smear the paste on palms and soles.
*To get relief from muscle sprains, mix equal parts of almond oil and garlic oil and massage over affected areas.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.