Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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almond the nut borne by the beautiful almond tree, Prunus dulcis, sometimes P. amygdalus, is delicately flavoured and highly versatile, has been cultivated since prehistoric times, and is the most important nut in commerce. The USA (California) is the main producer, supplying over half the world’s crop, followed by Spain and Italy. Almonds are also grown in most other Mediterranean countries, and in Portugal, Iran, Afghanistan, and Australia.

The almond belongs to the same genus as the apricot, cherry, etc., but it differs from them in having a leathery fruit, which can only be eaten when immature, and a comparatively large stone and kernel. Its ancestors are thought to be several wild trees of W. and C. Asia, whose small, dry fruits produce bitter kernels. The tree fruits only in warm temperate climates, tolerating neither spring frosts nor tropical humidity. Thus, when it spread from its region of origin, this was along a restricted band of W. Asia to the W. Mediterranean.