Amygdalus communis L. is probably the oldest nut gathered (and later farmed) by humans. It’s is small, encased in a shell that looks like a peach pit, and tastes great when used to flavor amaretto (and for those of you who want to send me gifts, Amaretto is my favorite liqueur…hint, hint). But almonds are much more more than that.
Originally found and farmed in Central Asia, in China and Mongolia, almonds were able to become popular becuase they were easy to transport. For those who later traveled the trade routes throughout the orient, and then later on the Silk Road, almonds were most certainly a quick snack one could eat while on horseback. Never underestimate convenience when it comes to popularizing foods. Of course, the fact that almond plants grow well and quickly also helps. Another tip if you want to popularize a food…make sure it’s ubiquotous. Apparently one could not swing a dead cat without heating almond plants while traveling the Silk Road.
Remember this name: Father Junipero Serra. This is the guy who brought almonds to California as he was setting up missionaries in southern California. Considering that in 2003, California had produced 1.08 billion meat pounds. That, my friends, is a lot of almonds. Wholesale cost of almonds per pound? $6. Six dollars multiplied by 1.08 billion equals a booming almond economy.
But more to the point, almonds mean marzipan, which also originated in the Orient. Of course, the noble houses of Europe later called an exclusive dessert on their dinner tables, and served as a luxury gift for the Empire’s highest dignitaries. It also was supposed to have medicinal powers, which leads me to believe that the following dialogue occured on many occasions:
Doctor/Barber: You are ill. I have determined that you have a slowing of the blood. For this, I perscribe….leeches!
Patient: Are you sure about the leeches? Perhaps marzipan would quicken my blood.
Doctor/Barber: Nope, nope. Who’s the doctor here anyways? It’s leeches. Leeches and a salt lick.
Patient:(under his breath) Bastard!
Back in 4,000 BC, almonds were found in most every ancient civilization. The Middle East, Israel, Greece, Egypt all grew almonds and used them in their diet. References to the almond is all through the bible, even figuring prominently in the design of the ancient Hebrew seven-branched lampstand…the Menorah. When Moses was instructed to build a tabernacle in the desert he was told to furnish it with holy vessels, including gold lampstand.
Jehovah: Moses…I want you to build a tabernacle in my name. And include a gold lampstand.
Moses: Oh yes My Lord. And how shall I design the gold lampstand?
Jehovah: I will leave that to you.
Moses: Thank you my Lord. I shall shape it in the shape of …an almond plant!
Jehovah:(under his breath) Bastard!
Oh there is so much to look forward to when researching almonds…oddly enough, most of them involving chocolate.Jordon almonds, Almond Joy, Chocolate covered Marzipan. Almond Ice cream, Almond bread….Mmmmm. I’m gonna be busy. Plus, as an added benefit, they’re good for you, as they’re chock full of monosaturated fat…which sounds really, really impressive if I knew what that meant.