The almond tree is a species of tree native to Southern Europe and hotter climates. The “almond” is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated seed of this tree. Within the genus Prunus, it is classified with the peach in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenres by the corrugated shell surrounding the seed. The fruit is a drupe, consisting of an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed inside.
Whilst almonds are often eaten on their own, raw or toasted, they are also a component of various dishes and are available in many forms; whole, sliced (flaked, slivered) and as flour. Almonds yield almond oil and can also be made into almond butter or almond milk. These products can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Almond flour is often used as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour in cooking and baking.
Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E and about 20 percent of raw almond is high quality protein, a third of which are essential amino acids. They are also rich in dietary fibre, B vitamins, essential minerals and mono-unsaturated fat, one of the two fats which potentially may lower LDL cholesterol. Almonds also contain phytosterols, associated with cholesterol-lowering.
The almond is highly revered in some cultures and is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. In the Old Testament, the almond was a symbol of watchfulness and promise due to its early flowering.
Almonds are a rich source of oil, with values ranging between 36 to 60% of kernel dry mass. “Oleum Amygdalae”, the fixed oil, is prepared from either sweet or bitter almonds and is a glyceryl oleate with a slight odour and a nutty taste. The oil is good for application to the skin as an emollient and is widely used by massage therapists.
Indeed a miracle food 🙂