Today marks the first in a series of posts profiling popular types of nuts. And since today is National Almond Day, that’s where we’ll begin. In this series, you’ll discover some basic history and tips, along with a list of our tea flavors and recipes that feature the selected nuts. So without any further ado …
Almonds have a documented history that stretches back thousands of years. They were first grown in Central Asia and the Mediterranean regions, and are even referenced in the Bible. Almonds were found in King Tut’s tomb and are depicted in ancient Egyptian art.
This nut is a cousin to the peach, plum and apricot – which are known as stone fruits. The difference is that with those fruits you eat the flesh and not the seed, while you don’t eat the flesh of an almond. There are two main types of almonds: sweet and bitter. (Bitter almonds are grown for their oil and not for eating raw.) Within the sweet category, the most common varieties are Jordan, Valencia, and California.
Today, about 80 percent of almonds are grown in California, but they are a relatively recent crop there. Although first planted there in the 1700s, the almond industry didn’t take off until the 1850s. Now 70 percent of California’s crop is exported.
These nutrient-dense nuts are high in calcium, fiber and magnesium, as well as vitamins B and E. Because of that, they are believed to aid in weight loss and to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They’re also good for your skin and may help boost your immune system. And eating almonds daily is believed to be good for your memory.
Cooking with Almonds
Because almonds are closely related to stone fruits, it’s no surprise those flavors pair well. But here are some other pairing suggestions to inspire you:
- Fruits: apples, blackberries, cherries, cranberries, lemon, pears, raisins, raspberries, rhubarb
- Spices & flavorings: amaretto (which is typically made from apricot pits), cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, coconut, honey
- Types of cuisines: Greek, Indian, Moroccan
- Other: cheese, coffee, beans, lamb, oats, olives, rice … and of course, tea!
You’ll find almonds in a number of formats – blanched, sliced/slivered, flavor extract, ground into flour or butter (a good option for those who don’t want peanut butter), or made into milk (a great dairy alternative we’ve featured in our Toffee Nut Cheesecake Parfaits). You can also make the butter, flour and milk yourself (which we may explore in a future post).
Check out other articles in this series!
(Note: These names will become links as each article is posted.)