One of the healthiest nuts is the almonds. Almond comes from a peach like fruit. There are both bitter and sweet almonds. Sweet ones are the ones that we relish and bitter almonds are wild almonds which are inedible. The almonds are said to belong to the rose family. Not just the almonds, about 3000 species belong to the botanical family of rose.
In the rose family, flowers are most reliable means of identification. The flowers have petals, sepals with numerous pollen-bearing stamens (the male part) and the single central pistil (the female part).
In spring, almond trees grow up to 30 feet with showy pink flowers. These trees are sometimes grown simply for their ornamental value and they grow better in summer. After pollination, the flowers develop into fruits. This fruit is said to have an inedible flesh. When the fruit ripens, it shed its shell (pit) resulting in almonds. The outermost shell also called hull is not so hard. Then there is a hard inner shell which breaks on its own with almond at the centre. The hull is used by the farmers to feed their cattle.
There are lots of varieties of almonds. Two varieties are normally planted in the almond orchards because pollen of a single variety cannot self-pollinate. When the outer shell cracks open, a machine is used to shake the tree. Before the nuts get swept off the floor by another machine, they are allowed to dry in the sun for some time.
More than 70% of world’s almonds are grown in California. The almonds have about 20% protein content and are used as food flavoring or components of certain medicines. The bitter almond seeds contain toxic prussic acid. They can be fatal if taken in large amounts. Oil from bitter almonds is processed too but it is distilled to remove the toxic prussic acid.