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Almond History

The almond is an object of value and symbol of hope.

Almost every ancient civilisation used almonds in their diet, and by 4,000 BC people were cultivating almond trees, which blossomed and grew well in the land around the Mediterranean. Hebrew literature from 2,000 BC mentions almonds, with early references to the nuts in Turkey, Romania and the Baltic Peninsula. Almond plantations became well established around the Mediterranean with some areas developing important industries based on the nut. In 1352, BC Tutankhamun took several handfuls of almonds to his grave, to nourish him on his journey into the afterlife.

Ancient religious texts make numerous references to almonds referring to them as an object of value and symbol of hope.

Explorers ate almonds while traveling the “Silk Road” between Asia and the Mediterranean. Wild almond groves spread along the traveller’s route as trees grew upon the ground on which stray nuts fell. Almonds soon became a staple food that helped sustain the long journeys of the nomadic tribes and before long, almond trees flourished in the Mediterranean especially in Spain and Italy.

By the mid-1700’s the almond tree was brought from Spain to California by the Franciscan Padres. However, the cool, moist weather of the coastal missions did not provide optimum growing conditions. It wasn’t until the following century that trees were successfully planted inland.

By the 1870’s, research and cross-breeding had developed several of today’s prominent almond varieties. By the turn of the 20th century, the almond industry was firmly established in the Sacramento and San Joaquin areas of California’s great Central Valley.

Throughout history, almonds have maintained religious, ethnic and social significance. The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm. Today, Americans give guests at weddings a bag of sugared almonds, representing children, happiness, romance, good health and fortune. In Sweden, cinnamon-flavoured rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is a Christmas custom. Find the almond, and good fortune is yours for a year.

Source: Hummingbird Publications

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