Almonds Are Not Nuts
Today I found out that almonds are not nuts. In fact, an almond is the seed of the fruit of the almond tree. This tree bears fruits with a “stone-like” seed within.
Fruits with these characteristics are called “drupes”. Specifically, a drupe is a fruit that has an outer fleshy part surrounding a shell that contains a seed. Other drupes include fruits from walnut trees and coconut trees.
The seed inside the almond fruit is what is commonly referred to as an almond “nut”, even though it’s not a nut. A nut is a hard shelled fruit that has an indehiscent seed; more simply, a hard shelled fruit that doesn’t open to release its seed(s). An example of a true nut would be an acorn or chestnut.
This all gives a whole new perspective to the famous Almond Joy jingle “Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don’t”. When you feel like a nut, an Almond Joy wouldn’t do you any good due to the ingredients primarily comprising of chocolate (bean), coconut (seed), and almonds (seed). The ending of the jingle, like so many advertisements, is then just plain false advertising: “Almond Joy’s got nuts” (LIES!!!), “Mounds don’t”.
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- Other “nuts” that aren’t include Brazil nuts, Cashews, Walnuts, Coconuts, Macadamia nuts, Peanuts, Tom Cruise, and Pistachios, among others. OK, so Tom Cruise is a nut, but in a totally non-botanical way.
- The almond tree itself is a cousin of the peach, cherry, and apricot trees. The tree is medium sized and bears fragrant pink and white flowers.
- Almonds come in two varieties, sweet and bitter.
- The bitter form of almonds contains a toxic amount of prussic acid. Prussic acid, for those who don’t know, can be further refined into cyanide. Just a handful of unprocessed bitter almonds is enough to kill most people. Processed bitter almonds though can safely be eaten as all the prussic acid will have been leached out.
- About 1.7 million tons of almonds are produced every year world-wide with the United States, specifically California, producing about 80% of the world’s almonds and 100% of the U.S.’s commercial supply of almonds.
- Close to one million bee hives, which is about 50% of the U.S.’s total number of bee hives, are used to pollinate California’s almond groves.
- Almonds are mentioned ten times in the Bible. According to tradition, if the Israelites followed the Lord, the almond trees would give forth sweet almonds, but if they forsook the Lord their God, the trees would give forth bitter almonds.
- The Almond blossom provided the model for the Jewish menorah: “Three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on one branch, with a knob and a flower; and three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on the other… on the candlestick itself were four cups, shaped like almond blossoms, with its knobs and flowers”.
- In Christian tradition, the almond branches are used as a symbol of the Virgin Birth of Jesus. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that paintings of this scene often include almond branches encircling the baby Jesus.
- Blanched almonds are shelled almonds that have been immersed in hot water to soften the seed coat so that this coat can be easily removed to reveal the white insides.