Unfortunately I am not able to grow almond trees as my garden is too far north, but I always make a great treat at holiday time called Spicy Maple Nuts. They are so easy to make and everyone loves them. My husband has an apiary and is always reading up on the life of bees and came across an interesting article regarding bees and almonds.
Apparently 2/3 or about 1.5 million hives are imported to California from other areas of the United States to pollinate the almond trees. Years ago when farms were smaller with varied crops most of the pollination was done by local bee hives. However, now the farms are large and mono cropped, pesticides and herbicides are layered on the land and crops leaving nothing behind for natural insects to survive. What was once a natural process is now a multi million dollar management industry.
The almond we love to eat is Prunus dulcis. The fruit is called a drupe which has an outer hard shell with the seed inside. We call these almond nuts but they are really seeds. Almond trees are native to the Middle East and were transported to California. Trees vary in height from 12 to 33 feet high and start bearing a crop in the third year after planting. Flowering in the spring, the fruit matures in the fall.
Almonds are eaten on their own, they are used in baking and made into milk, butter and oil. Almond milk is often substituted for lactose intolerant people and vegans. Almonds are also ground into a flour which is gluten free for cooking and baking. Almonds are rich in vitamin E and are a good source of protein. They are also rich in fibre, B vitamins and monounsaturated fat.
The recipe for spicy nuts is below, they make a great hostess gift for New Years Parties.
Spicy Maple Nuts
Place 4 cups of whole, unblanched almonds in a bowl. In a saucepan combine 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup with 2T of butter, 11/2 tsp of chili powder, 3/4 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper. Cook over medium heat until it bubbles. Pour over nuts and mix well. Spread nuts onto
a baking sheet lined with foil and lightly oiled. Place in 300F(150C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir occasionally. Let cool on sheet and stir a couple of times.
Fill clear gift bags and tie with ribbon, or place in a decorative tin for gift giving.