From: National Almond Day.com
National Almond Day! February 16
Good for your heart. Good for your waistline. Good for your skin. What can’t almonds do?
With a history that dates back to ancient times, it’s no wonder this miraculous little tree fruit is so widely used and revered. It’s also no wonder that this ultimate super food has its very own day of honor.
So whether you enjoy them plain or roasted, paired with chocolate or fish, or perhaps as the ultimate aid for dry skin be sure to celebrate
National Almond Day February 16.
History of Almonds
Those almonds you pop as a midday snack travelled a long, roundabout way before settling in California where about 80 per cent of the world’s almonds are now grown. Originally from central and southwest Asia, almonds became a staple food there that helped sustain the long journeys of nomadic tribes.
Wild stands of almond trees grew near trade routes such as the Silk Road that connected central China with the Mediterranean. Easy access allowed for the spread of the wild almond groves because almonds took route in the ground on which they fell. Evidence of this occurs even today in central California, where wild species of almond trees can be seen growing in ditches and roadways.
Nearly every ancient civilization used almonds. By 4,000 B.C. people were cultivating almond trees, which blossomed well in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
Hebrew literature from 2,000 B.C. mentions almonds. Early references from Turkey, Romania and the Baltic peninsula also cite references to the nut. The Bible makes numerous references to almonds as an object of value and symbol of hope. In Genesis 43:11, for example, a famine in Canaan prompts Jacob to ask his sons to go to Egypt to buy grain. He told them, “Take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man a present, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds.”
King Tut took several handfuls of almonds to his grave in 1352 B.C., to nourish him on his journey into the afterlife. Persians and Arabs made a milk of almond meal and water, which they valued both as a refreshing drink and as an ingredient in other foods.
All around the Mediterranean, hillside almond culture became well established with some areas developing important industries based on the nut, including France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey. Except for Spain, which is the second-largest almond producer after California, these countries are comparatively small players in the international trade in almonds.
Worship, Legends & Customs
It’s said Moses crafted pure gold lamps in the shape of almonds, Persian rug makers wove their image into rugs and Van Gogh devoted many paintings to their likeness. Since at least biblical times, it’s believed the almond has been revered in art, music and literature as emblems of beauty, hope and rebirth.
The shape of the almond seed is prominent in religious art of the Renaissance and earlier. The distinctive oval of the kernel forms a halo around religious figures in paintings, stained glass windows, frescoes, friezes, and in many other art forms to signify spiritual energy or to serve as a protective shield. Widely used by Italian artists, the halo was referred to as a mandorla, the Italian word for almond.
Throughout history, almonds have maintained religious, ethnic and social significance. The Bible’s Book of Numbers tells the story of Aaron’s rod that blossomed and bore almonds, giving the almond the symbolism of divine approval.
The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm. Today, North Americans give guests at weddings a bag of sugared almonds, representing children, happiness, romance, good health and fortune. In Sweden, cinnamon-flavored rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is a Christmas custom. Find it, and good fortune is yours for a year.
Consumption of almonds in India is believed to be good for the brain, while the Chinese consider it a symbol of enduring sadness and female beauty.
California, here we come
In 1840, attempts to grow almonds in America were met with little success. The thinking went that if peaches, which are genetically similar to almonds, could grow in southern states then they could grow almonds successfully in Texas, New Mexico and Georgia. But growers soon discovered that the early blooming almond regularly fell to late frosts in those areas or to diseases of high humidity.
In the 1850s, plantings near Sacramento, Monterey and Los Angeles showed promise and a new industry was born for California growers. Today, the state of California is the biggest producer of the world’s supply of almonds.