[Disclosure: I attended the almond orchard tour mentioned in this post courtesy of the Almond Board of California. I was not compensated for my time, nor was I asked to write this post. Opinions expressed are my own.]
I mentioned yesterday that I recently returned from California courtesy of the Almond Board where I had a chance to learn more about how almonds are grown and harvested. I’ll be the first to admit that in my uninformed mind, when I accepted the trip I assumed I would see how almonds were grown in California… and then at some point, get to compare that with how almonds are grown elsewhere in the country.
I mentioned I was uninformed, right?
First note I made to myself on the trip: “Regan: almonds aren’t grown anywhere else in the U.S.”
These beautiful orchards are uniquely suited for the Mediterranean-type climate characteristic of the Central Valley in California.
I stand corrected.
Next surprise moment of the trip -- on the first day as I sat in what I’m affectionately calling #AlmondUniversity (basically everything you wanted to know about almonds and more) I learned how almond tress are actually grafted onto stone-fruit tree bases (think cherries and peaches)... Note the bulb at the bottom. That's where the grafting occurs. This fascinates me. It's an old-school agriculture way of making sure that the trees have the best base to support the most ideal growth, water utilization, etc. In a day and age where people are admittedly skeptical of agriculture practices they don't understand, it's time-tested methods like these that remind me a lot of the advances made in orchards, fields and on farms, aren't really all that scary at all.
(image courtsey of the Almond Board of California)
... and as the almonds on the trees grow, they have quite the protective environment, shown here as both a shell and a hull (which, interestingly later gets used by local dairy farms for both feed and bedding -- a wonderful example of local sustainability efforts).
Once peak season arrives, each of these little almond/hull/shell packages have to be shaken off the tree, and dried on the orchard floor. Like this...
(video by Holley Grainger, MS, RD)
But arguably my favorite part of the visit was discussing all the ways that the almond has exploded onto the food scene. As I always say, I’m a dietitian by education, but a food lover by birth. So while talk of nutrition (like I shared yesterday) always interests me, it's learning what people can eat and enjoy in their kitchen that gets me most excited. I'm especially amazed at all the different ways the food industry is embracing the almond — especially since it offers for the gluten free community a nutrient-rich alternative for baking. One criticism many experts have when people make the switch to a gluten-free diet is the perceived decrease in fiber and iron. But as you'll see below, almond flour is actually a good source of both and overall, is very nutrient dense.
Healthy Aperture bloggers are no stranger to the benefits of Almond Flour. Here are my 5 favorite ways our bloggers are baking with almond flour.