Almond tree: everything you need to know

Introduction

The almond tree (Prunus dulcis or Amygdalus communis) is a deciduous fruit tree. It is typical of temperate or warm zones due to its low tolerance to cold. 

The ideal soil for planting an almond tree is a loose, sandy soil that has good drainage. It should not oppress its roots. Almond tree belongs to the Rosaceae family, which is one of the most evolved and numerous in species. People mostly cultivate it for almonds. Although care must be taken to differentiate the sweet almond from the bitter one, which is toxic for pharmacological use.

The early flowering of the almond tree and the fact that the people can not collect fruit until 9 months after the beginning of this flowering is very curious. It is, therefore, a long ripening process characteristic of this tree.

There are late-flowering varieties of the almond tree that horticulturists use for areas prone to late frosts. In addition, it is important to cultivate on slopes or sunny grounds that facilitate the escape from frost. It also allows the activity of bees to proliferate for pollination.

On the other hand and speaking precisely of the bees in charge of pollinating the almond tree, the rains in the flowering season make the process quite complicated.

History of the almond tree

The almond tree began to be cultivated in Persia, Syria and Palestine. In the legends of the bible, the patriarch Abraham used almond rods to build corrals where he closed his numerous flocks and the famous staff of Aaron was a branch of the aforementioned tree. In the Bible the almond tree symbolizes vigilance and good fruit that is why it appears among those selected by Aaron and is present in earthly Paradise. For this reason he often surrounds the paintings of the child Jesus (the fruit of the Virgin) or his mother.

The Greeks were the diffusers of this plant species throughout the Mediterranean. At the end of the 18th century some Franciscan missionaries, led by Brother Junípero Serra (a native of Petra), planted almond trees from our lands in the Californian region of San Diego.

Description of almond tree

The almond tree is a deciduous tree of the Rosaceae family that can reach up to 10 meters in height. Its trunk is smooth and greenish in its young stage but becomes cracked and greyish in its adult stage. It blooms between the months of January to April and bears its fruit between the months of August to October.

The leaves of the almond tree are long and narrow and have serrated edges.

Common name: almond tree

Scientific name: Prunus dulcis

Family: Rosaceae

Origin: Asia

Location: Exterior

Light: Direct sunlight

Temperature: Temperate climate, although they can withstand low temperatures.

Irrigation: moderate

Some of the most cultivated almond varieties in Spain are Marcona, Largueta, Planeta, Mallorca or Mollares.

Vegetative organs of almond tree

Root: The almond tree has an axonomorphic root with a more developed main axis than the lateral ones, in a radial system, little branched, well attached to the ground and of a yellow-gray color when young.

Trunk: The stem is woody and sympathetic branching, that is, different divergent branches emerge from the main trunk; it is smooth, green and brown when young and scaly and gray in the adult tree.

Leaf: Its leaves are simple, lanceolate, with an attenuated base, a pointed apex and therefore, markedly pointed and its margins are slightly serrated; they have a leathery texture, a pinnate rib and are deep green in color.

Reproductive organs of almond tree

The almond blossom can appear alone or in groups of 2 to 4. It has five petals whose color varies between pink and whitish tones.

The fruits, almonds, are up to 6 cm long and are drupe-shaped.

As you will see, the almond tree is a tree that is significantly sensitive to certain climatic conditions but very resistant to others. You simply have to choose the most suitable variety of almond for the climatic characteristics of your area.

Flower type and reproduction:

The flowers of the almond tree are hermaphroditic and monoecious, since they have androecium and gynoecium in the same flower and the two sexes coincide in the same individual. Its inflorescence is racemose and grape-shaped, that is, the pedicellate flowers are arranged along an axis. They are flowers that present homologous pieces, at the same level of the floral axis, with two planes of symmetry and with the calyx and corolla well differentiated, therefore, they are actinomorphic and heteroclamidic cyclic flowers.

They have a fairly developed perianth consisting of the calyx and corolla. The chalice, without it, is made up of five reddish sepals welded together; the corolla, dialysepal, has the five free petals equal to each other, symmetrically arranged in a very regular way, white or pale pink in color and are welded only at the base. The entire flower is found around an open, concave receptacle called a hypanthus.

The androecium is formed by the set of male organs of the flower

Called stamens. These are formed by a filament and an anther that is constitute two teak. In each teak we can find two pollen sacs where the pollen grains are.

In the flowers of the almond tree the number of stamens is high, between 15 and 30, arranged in several groups and without being welded between them: they are polyadelphic and free stamens. These are located irregularly in front of the petals and sepals, and do not protrude from the corolla, they are stamens included. The anther opening process is done by a slit along each teak, a process called longitudinal dehiscence.

The gynoecium is the female sexual apparatus of the flower

And is formed, in this case, by a single free carpel located within the hypanthus and covered with a bleached villi. Inside this we find a closed cavity called the ovary located above the rest of the floral pieces. Therefore, we will say that the almond blossom is monocarpelar. In addition, it is also perigine because it has the sepals, petals and stamens distributed around the gynoecium. Its placentation is marginal, that is, the seminal primordia are inserted at the margins.

Once fertilization has taken place, the fruit is formed in the ovary that contains the seeds and contributes by dispersing when they are mature.

They are simple fruits, since they come from a monocarpelar gynoecium. If we compare the fruit of the almond tree, which is an ovate and tomentose drupe (covered with hairs), with that of other fruit trees that are classified in the same genus Prunus (such as plum, cherry, apricot and peach) we can see the similarity between the almond and the pits of the plum , the cherry , the apricot and the peach .

The difference is that the mesocarp, which in these fruits constitutes the fleshy part, which is what is eaten, in the almond tree it is a kind of skin that dries up during ripening and opens releasing the bone with the seed inside, the almond, which will be the edible part in this case. The almond has a stony endocarp that is reddish brown when the seed is well ripe and the opening of the fruit is not of a certain shape, it is indehiscent.

The pits of the almond tree are also much smaller, proportionally, but this is largely due to artificial selection to increase the volume of the usable part, which has sought to increase the size of the almonds and reduce that of the bones of the others. fruit trees. Of these fruits, the one that most closely resembles that of the almond tree is the apricot, which does not open by itself but can be opened very easily by a highly visible suture and separate the pit.

Almond tree care

The almond tree is a very resistant tree and does not require much care to grow, although it does need warm climates, since it does not tolerate cold or frost very well . In return, the almond tree can withstand periods of drought.

It prefers loose or slightly sandy soils, since heavy or poorly drained soils do not help the expansion of its roots. Normally, the almond tree is reproduced by grafting.

The most common pests and diseases of the almond tree are: the caterpillar, the defoliator moth, the aphids , the borers, the antónomos, the mealybugs , the almond tiger or the big-headed worm.

The almonds

The fruit of the almond tree is the almond, that is, the seed. It contains 2.3% carbohydrates, 5.7% water, 15.2% cellulose, 18.7% protein and 58.1% fat. It is also rich in vitamin B, D, and minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. The two varieties of almonds, both bitter and sweet, contain the glucoside amygdalin, which makes it very bad taste. Both contain ferments called emulsin, which can break down amygdalin and synthesize hydrocyanic acid.

It must be borne in mind that sweet almonds contain sugars, and therefore diabetics and those who take drugs or depending on which drugs that modify the amount of sugar should monitor the amount of almonds they take. For the same fact, almonds have high energy value and they can hep you in gaining weight.

Uses of almonds

Gastronomy:

With the chopped almond sauces are made and it is used as an ingredient of the bites in many dishes and stews. People add  raw almonds as a whole in some casserole meat dishes.

They are used for the musician dessert. The sweet raw almonds kneaded with sugar form marzipan and nougat, a typical Christmas dessert. If you chop the almonds with sugar, forming a homogeneous mass with water and later straining the liquid, you can create almond horchata. They are basic in cakes, bitters, buns and other sweets.

You can make liqueurs, for example amaretto, synthesized from bitter almonds, or hazelnut horchata. The almond milk can be used to replace cow’s milk because it is rich in calcium.

Sexual relations in relation with almond tree

According to some popular cultures, people can use it as an aphrodisiac food.

Health related to almond tree

People use different parts of the plant as antitussive, hypotensive and hepatoprotective, among others. Its main properties are as a dermatological emollient, laxative, anti-inflammatory, healing and antispasmodic (oil of the bitter variant). People also use Almond milk and oil, as an external application, for skin care.

In current medicine, physicians use almond oil for the treatment of dermatitis, dry skin, psoriasis, for constipation and superficial burns. The oil of the bitter variant is antispasmodic in small doses, but always under medical prescription due to the toxicity of the plant. In addition, almond milk has a dietary application due to its high content of nutrients.

Possible allergies, toxicity, or other negative effects of almonds

There is a variant of this species called bitter. Almonds are bitter and toxic due to their high content of cyanogenetic heterosides, that is, hydrocyanic acid (one milligram per almond). The fruit of the almond species is predominantly sweet, but a few bitter almonds can be found on each tree.

Bitter almond is slightly wider and shorter than sweet almond and contains half the fixed oil of sweet almonds. It also contains the enzyme emulsin, which in the presence of water, acts as a soluble glycoside called amygdalin that gives glucose, cyanide and essential oil of bitter almonds which is practically pure benzaldehyde. Bitter almonds provide 4-9 mg of hydrogen cyanide for each almond.

Bitter almond extract had been used medicinally but even in low doses the effects are severe and in large doses they can be fatal. Consuming bitter almonds in a high amount produces nausea, vomiting, hypothermia, suffocation, etc. In the most serious cases it can lead to death, especially in children. Other bitter almonds, however, are not toxic and people often use them in gastronomy, especially for desserts and liqueurs.

Almond allergies are quite frequent

It can cause inflammation of the lip, face and can even close the throat.

Ecology

The almond tree is native to West Asia and Northeast Africa, where it is grown wild. Although today, people cultivate it throughout the world.

It is a tree that adapts well to light, dry and stony soils, preferring calcareous ones, and it lives in areas with a temperate climate, with hot and dry summers and mild winters with few frosts. On the contrary, it has a hard time surviving in wet and impermeable lands and in cold environments. Frost, gum disease, wrinkling, root rot in humid areas and the caterpillar of the almond tree hinder its growth and can cause death.

Culture

It is a plant that multiplies by grafting on a bitter almond pattern, since it is more resistant. The most cultivated varieties are: Atocha, considered a Spanish variety with high quality almonds; Desmayo Largueta: red faint, another late-flowering Spanish variety; Marcona; Guara; There’s a lot.

Plagues and diseases

Insect pests include:

The caterpillar of the almond tree that feeds on the youngest leaves.

Monosteira unicostata

Malacosoma neustria that feeds on young leaves, as well as shoots and buds.

Almond weevil (Scolytus amydali Guérin) that make holes and galleries in the bark.

Anthonomus amygdali Hust is a beetle that attacks the centers of flowers.

As well as the “mealybugs”.

Among the fungi the most important are Armillaria, Wilsonomyces carpophila, chancre and moniliosis.

Varieties

There are more than fifty.

The best known early flowering plants are: Desmayo llargueta, Marcona Garrigues, Vivot and Pozo de Felanitx.

Of flowering late among others: Cristo morto, Texas, Ferragnes, Ferraduel, Well, Masbovera, Glorieta and Francolí and late flowering and pollen autocompatible: Guara

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