The weather this Saturday was unseasonably warm (27C!) and beautiful, so we harvested things in the garden. I volunteered to strip the almond tree. We’ve had our tree about three years and this spring it did us proud with a glorious show of blossom. A good half of these, I’d estimate, have matured to become edible almonds. It’s a far greater success rate than we’d ever expected.
For those who don’t know (and until very recently that included me), I’ve posted a picture of what ripe almonds look like. I reckon we got a couple of hundred. It took me well over an hour to strip the tree. The nuts are ready to pick when the green pods split, because then the waxy substance surrounding the seed begins to harden and the sun starts to roast the nut. I doubt whether it very often gets hot enough in Manchester, where I live, to complete this phase without an oven.
I shellled the nuts as I went along, which wasn’t such an effort really. Once they’ve split, the nut comes out very easily. This is what it looks like in cross section:
The kernel, the bit you actually eat, is covered in a rather beautiful papery skin with a lightly striped brown pattern. If you want to, you can blanch the nuts for a minute or so and it will peel right off. However, if you leave it on it’s healthier and adds to the flavour, particularly if you grind the almonds into flour.
I have a warming drawer beneath my oven and I dried the shelled kernals in there on a gentle heat for an hour or two. They are now ready to store, and I may well be enjoying home-grown almond paste on my Christmas cake this year. Although the flavour is so superb – quite incomparable with even the best shop-bought almonds I’ve tasted – that within a week or two we may have nibbled them all as a snack.