by LJ Hodek-Creapeau, Circkles Managing Editor
Funny story about growing almonds, and you will know what I mean when you see the photos of them.
I bought an almond tree about 4 years ago to pollinate another almond tree I have. I watered it diligently for 3 years to get it going, and then one year, it took off: grew like crazy. However, one day I was walking by it and I noticed it looked suspiciously a great deal like my peach trees. I mean, identical to them. My first thought was that the nursery had sent me the wrong tree. It still had the nursery tag on it, but it must have been mislabeled, because when it got fuzzy green fruits on it that looked just like peaches, I was pretty convinced it was indeed a peach tree. I decided I would let the nursery know they sent me the wrong tree, but it blossomed profusely that spring and I figured if it was going to be a good producer, it wouldn’t be a total loss, so I held off complaining to the nursery, anxiously waiting to find out what type of peach it would produce.
Summer went on and I got busy and put off contacting the nursery to tell them they had sent me the wrong tree. The peaches on it got bigger and bigger, but when fall arrived and the peaches in my orchard were all turning ripe, the ones on this tree remained green, and once they got much bigger, they were starting to look a little different than a peach.
The closer it got to fall the more concerned I became that these peaches were not going to ripen before frost. Then it hit me that maybe I should go online and see what almonds look like when they are still on the tree; and when I did; low and behold, it turned out to be an almond after all.
I thought the almonds would look like they do in the tan shells you see in the stores. Needless to say, I was very glad I never contacted the nursery to complain. Imagine me explaining to them that they most certainly sent me a peach tree instead of an almond, and them insisting that my fuzzy green peaches are what almonds really look like. I’m sure it would have been just a little embarrassing for me and frustrating for them to say the least.
When the green, fuzzy pods split open in the fall they are ready to be picked. Peeling the pods off is best done right after you pick them because they have a sticky gel that coats the hardshell of the nut inside, and once dry, can stick like glue and make it very difficult to peel the green skin off.
Once peeled, allow the shelled nut to dry for a few weeks to a couple months. The shells are very hard to crack until they dry. Once dry, they look like the raw almonds in a shell that you see in stores, upon which time you can freeze them if you don’t eat them right away to prevent them from getting rancid as nuts will do if left at room temperature too long.
Almond trees will grow anywhere peaches will. They need good watering to get them established, prefer full sun, and don’t mind drought conditions once they are about 3-4 years old. They are fairly maintenance free, and almonds are one of the most nutritionally beneficial nuts. The profuse spring blossoms alone make this tree a worthy ornamental edible. If you are limited for space to grow a nut tree: pick this one.
Photos by L.J. Hodek