General info about Fruit
The almond (Prunus dulcis, syn. Prunus amygdalus, or Amygdalus communis) is a small deciduous tree belonging to the subfamily Prunoideae of the family Rosaceae; an almond is also the fruit of this tree. The plant is classified with the peach in the subgenus Amygdalus within Prunus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell.
The sweet fleshy outer covering of other members of Prunus, such as the plum and cherry, is replaced by a leathery coat called the hull, which contains inside a hard shell the edible kernel, commonly called a nut. In botanical parlance, the reticulated hard stony shell is called an endocarp, and the fruit, or exocarp, is a drupe, having a downy outer coat.
The tree is a native of southwest Asia. The domesticated form can ripen fruit as far north as the British Isles. It is a small tree, growing to 4-9 m tall. The leaves are lanceolate, 6-12 cm long, and serrated at the edges. The flowers are white or pale pink, 3-5 cm diameter with five petals, produced before the leaves in early spring.
Ways to prepare and serve the Fruit
Edible Parts: Seed.
Edible Uses: Gum; Milk; Oil.
Seed - raw, cooked or dried and ground into a powder for use in confections etc. The whole seed can also be roasted, sprouted or used in cakes, confectionery and pastry. The sweet-flavoured forms have a delicious flavour but bitter forms should not be eaten in any quantity - see the notes above on toxicity. The seed is somewhat difficult to digest and so needs to be thoroughly masticated. It can be blended with water to make almond milk. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. It is used mainly as a food flavouring and in cooking. An edible gum is obtained from points of damage on the stems.
Health Benefits and Warnings of eating Fruit
Antitumor; Demulcent; Emollient; Nutritive; Pectoral.
As well as being a tasty addition to the diet, almonds are also beneficial to the overall health of the body, being used especially in the treatment of kidney stones, gallstones and constipation. Externally, the oil is applied to dry skins and is also often used as a carrier oil in aromatherapy. The seed is demulcent, emollient, laxative, nutritive and pectoral. When used medicinally, the fixed oil from the seed is normally employed. The seed contains ‘laetrile’, a substance that has also been called vitamin B17. This has been claimed to have a positive effect in the treatment of cancer, but there does not at present seem to be much evidence to support this. The pure substance is almost harmless, but on hydrolysis it yields hydrocyanic acid, a very rapidly acting poison - it should thus be treated with caution. In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being. The leaves are used in the treatment of diabetes. The plant contains the antitumour compound taxifolin.
Adhesive; Cleanser; Cosmetic; Dye; Gum; Miscellany; Oil; Soap making.
An oil expressed from the seeds is an excellent lubricant in delicate mechanisms such as watches. It is often used in soaps and cosmetics because it has a softening effect on the skin. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit. A yellow dye is obtained from the roots and leaves. The bruised leaves, when rubbed within any container, will remove strong odours such as garlic or cloves so long as any grease has first been fully cleaned off. A gum from the stems is used as an adhesive. The burnt shell yields a valuable absorbent for coal gas. The burnt pericarp is rich in potassium, it is used in soap making. The seed contains amygdallin, under the influence of water and in the presence of emulsion it can be hydrolized to produce benzaldehyde (the almond aroma, formula C6 H5 CHO) and prussic acid (the toxic principle).
The word ‘almond’ comes from Old French almande or alemande, late Latin amandola, derived through a form amingdola from the Greek amugdale (cf Amygdala), an almond. The al- for a- may be due to a confusion with the Arabic article al, the word having first dropped the a- as in the Italian form mandorla; the British pronunciation ah-mond and the modern Catalan ametlla and modern French amande show the true form of the word.
Recipes made mainly with this Fruit
While the almond is most often eaten on its own, raw or toasted, it is used in some dishes. It, along with other nuts, is often sprinkled over desserts, particularly sundaes and other ice cream based dishes. It is also used in making baklava and nougat. There is also almond butter, a spread similar to peanut butter, popular with peanut allergy sufferers and for its less salty taste.
The sweet almond itself contains practically no carbohydrates and may therefore be made into flour for cakes and biscuits for low carbohydrate diets or for patients suffering from diabetes mellitus or any other form of glycosuria. A standard serving of almond flour, 1 cup, contains 20 grammes of carbohydrates, of which 10 g is dietary fibre, for a net of 10 g of carbohydrate per cup. This makes almond flour very desirable for use in cake and bread recipes by people on carbohydrate-restricted diets.
Almonds can be processed into a milk substitute simply called almond milk; the nut’s soft texture, mild flavour, and light colouring (when skinned) make for an efficient analog to dairy, and a soy-free choice, for lactose intolerant persons, vegans, and so on. Raw, blanched, and lightly toasted almonds all work well for different production techniques, some of which are very similar to that of soymilk and some of which actually use no heat, resulting in “raw milk” (see raw foodism).
Sweet almonds are used in marzipan, nougat, and macaroons, as well as other desserts. Almonds are a rich source of Vitamin E, containing 24 mg per 100 g. They are also rich in monounsaturated fat, one of the two “good” fats responsible for lowering LDL cholesterol.
The Marcona variety of almond, which is shorter, rounder, sweeter, and more delicate in texture than other varieties, originated in Spain and is becoming popular in North America and other parts of the world. Marcona almonds are traditionally served after being lightly fried in oil, and are also used by Spanish chefs to prepare a dessert called turrón.
In China, almonds are used in a popular dessert when they are mixed with milk and then served hot. In Indian cuisine, almonds are the base ingredient for pasanda-style curries.