We here at Happy Happy Vegan love the humble almond, and there are a number of reasons why that’s the case. Not only is this nut a nutritional powerhouse jam-packed full of wonderful health benefits, it’s also one of the tastiest ingredients you can include in a vegan diet.
However, with all of the health advice floating around, it can be difficult to see the wood for the almond trees, so to speak. So, to help you explore this unassuming nut we’ve crafted a nifty little 101 guide that covers everything from storage to sustainability.
Let’s crack on!
- What are almonds?
- Quick facts about almonds
- Nutritional profile
- Health benefits of almonds
- Almonds: A buyers guide
- Storing almonds tips
- Ways to consume almonds
- Should you soak almonds?
- How to soak almonds
- What about sprouting?
- Almond recipes
- Are there any downsides?
- What about sustainability?
- Should vegans even be eating almonds?
- Can you grow almonds at home?
- Almonds 101…done!
What are almonds?
Before we go any further, we should probably explore the ingredient in a little more detail.
Almonds are a nut plucked from the branches of the Prunus Dulcis or Prunus Amygdalus tree.
Well, except they’re actually not.
Just like the coconut, the almond is actually a “drupe” consisting of an outer hard shell with the seed inside. Sold both shelled and unshelled, what we generally mean when we’re referring to the almond is the seed contained within the outer shell.
Now you know!
The almond is native to the Mediterranean climate region of the Middle East, from Syria and Turkey towards Pakistan.
Almonds were spread in Ancient times by humans into Northern Africa and Southern Europe and more recently transported to the USA – most notably, California. The beginning of almond cultivation started when people began to select between the sweet almond type over the bitter one more commonly found in the wild.
The first cultivated almond trees were done so by accident – growing unintentionally in farmers garbage heaps. Soon after, the taste for the drupe grew and farmers began intentionally planting them in their orchards.
Almonds were actually one of the very first domesticated fruit trees, due mainly to the fact that the grower could raise attractive specimens from seed – and easily.
The name “almond” comes from the old French “almande” or “alemande” which is actually derived from the Greek “Amygdala”. The modern use of the word “amygdaloid” literally means “shaped like an almond” and, if you know your biology, you’ll know that there are two almond shaped structures found within the brain of complex vertebrates, including us humans, which, you guessed it, are called the “Amygdala” (or “amygdalae”, for the plural).
The amygdala is central to our emotions and the way we perceive the feelings of others, including our “fight or flight” response. Damage to the amygdala can increase risk taking, affect how we feel hunger, and even make us more prone to sexual arousal! Scientists also believe that the amygdala is central to addiction and impulsivity. (1)
The latest projections claim that 1.4m metric tonnes of shelled almonds will be produced worldwide in 2018/19 – and trends predict this will continue to rise, largely thanks to the huge contributing factor of the world’s growing desire for plant based milks. (2)
The USA produces the vast majority of the world’s almonds, with Spain, Iran, Turkey, Italy, and Morocco trailing behind. Australia is the world’s leading almond producer in the southern hemisphere.
In the USA, California is by far the country’s leading producer of the drupe, with over 1.3m acres dedicated to production. In 2017 alone, California produced 2.25 billion pounds of almonds, with an estimated worth of $5.4 billion – that’s a whole lot of nuts!
Are there different types?
In short, yes. There’s the bitter type and the far more palatable sweet type.
The almonds that we eat should always be the sweet kind – all of those grown in the US are the sweet cultivar. Unfortunately, bitter almonds actually contain high levels of cyanide – so much so, that eating 50 almonds of the bitter variety can lead to cyanide poisoning! (3)
Reassuringly, the bitter kind are extremely unpalatable – meaning you’re unlikely to consume fifty of them. If you buy US grown almonds, you can be sure they’ll only be of the sweet kind.
Quick facts about almonds
- Chocolatiers use 40% of world’s total almonds in making delicious chocolates
- Almonds are members of the rose family and are sometimes called “the queen of the rose family”
- Almonds were one of the first foods awarded a qualified health claim in the US
- Almonds have a long storage life and they can be refrigerated for up to 2 years
- It takes 1,000 pounds of almonds to make 1 pint of almond oil.
- The world’s largest almond factory is in Sacramento, California. It processes 2 million pounds of almonds a day
- The protein in almonds is more like the proteins in human breast milk of all the seeds and nuts
- There’s an entire museum in Israel dedicated to marzipan, also known as almond candy dough
- Domesticated almond trees can be found as far north as Iceland
- Researchers have developed a “self pollinating” almond tree, which may reduce California’s dependency of bee pollination (4)
Almonds are made up of 4.7% water, 21.7% carbohydrate, 21.2% protein and 49.4% fat. If you were to eat 100 grams of almonds, you’d be consuming 575 calories. (5)
Per 100g, almonds contain the following percentages of your RDA:
- Calcium – 26%
- Copper – 50%
- Folate – 12%
- Iron – 21%
- Magnesium – 67%
- Manganese – 114%
- Niacin – 17%
- Phosphorus – 48%
- Potassium – 20%
- Riboflavin – 60%
- Thiamine – 14%
- Vitamin B6 – 7%
- Vitamin E – 131%
- Zinc – 21%
Almonds are also a rich source of fiber with 12.5g per 100g.
The almond provides an excellent source of healthy dietary fats, too. The monounsaturated fat oleic acid is present in 31.6g of 100g almonds while the polyunsaturated fat linoleic acid is present in 12.3g out of the 100g. Oleic and linoleic acids are rich in Omega 9’s and 6’s respectively – both brilliant for brain health.
Health benefits of almonds
Seeing as almonds were one of the first foods awarded a qualified health claim in the US, we thought we’d cover some of the main health benefits of this superstar seed.
Heart disease, brain function, blood sugar, weight loss, digestive health, bone health – the list of claims goes on and on. So, let us help you by separating fact from fiction.
Helps protect against heart disease
Almonds are packed with monounsaturated fats and antioxidants that help to support heart health.
The vitamins and minerals that almonds are full of – arginine, magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium and potassium – have been shown to have a consistent lowering effect on “bad” LDL cholesterol – something that has been shown to be beneficial in managing heart and cardiovascular health. (6)
In another study, participants were fed 50g of almonds daily to study the effects of antioxidants in the blood. The almond group ended up with improved blood flow and lowered blood pressure – both of which can potentially reduce the risk of heart disease. (7)
Vitamin E is well known to have a beneficial effect on the skin, provide intense moisturization and reducing signs of aging. The improved blood flow shown in the study above also helps the skin to heal wounds and remain hydrated.
Now, brace yourselves because you’re about to be hit with some rather weird sounding names: catechin, epicatechin, quercetin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin.
Why are these important?
Well, the humble little almond is jam packed with them and they’ve been shown to potentially fight cancers in the skin by reducing oxidative stress caused by UV light exposure, inadequate diet, and environmental pollution. (8)
As ever, more studies are needed here, but the early indicators give a big thumbs up to including almonds in your diet for skin health.
Supports brain function
Almonds contain both riboflavin and L-carnitine – two nutrients that are considered highly important in supporting brain health and cognitive function. Both nutrients also help to prevent and reduce inflammation which in turn helps to ward off brain diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinsons.
A thing called “acetylcholine” in the brain is a type of “neurotransmitter” that helps the neurons fire and communicate effectively. It is a deficiency in acetylcholine that can cause things like “brain fog” or cognitive dysfunction. Luckily for us, almonds actually stimulate the release of acetylcholine, keeping the brain fit and firing on all cylinders.
A study performed in 2016 showed that the consumption of almonds were shown to give faster memory recall and protection against age related memory dysfunction. (9)
Help control blood sugar and prevent diabetes
Some studies have shown that almonds have a positive effect on glucose tolerance – one of the risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes. (10)
The mono-unsaturated fatty acids present in high amounts in almonds help slow the rate at which glucose is released into the bloodstream which helps to prevent insulin resistance.
Despite almonds containing relatively high levels of calories and fat, as part of a healthy diet they can actually be beneficial in aiding weight loss because the large amount of fiber and healthy fats help you feel full more quickly – lessening the chances of overeating. (11)
Because of the fats and fiber, almonds also release energy more slowly, helping to control appetite and reduce “spikes” in blood sugar. Studies have also shown that people who regularly consume nuts maintain healthier weights and experience lower rates of obesity and metabolic syndrome than those who don’t. (12)
Almonds help manage your weight while still being able to munch on these delicious drupes? Count us in!
Almonds actually contain prebiotic components that help with digestion and healthy bacterial growth within the gut flora. A healthy gut biome allows your body to effectively utilize the nutrients from the foods you eat – so eating a healthy amount of almonds could help with this. (13)
Another thing to consider is the fiber content of almonds. Large amounts of fiber help to bulk up the stool and aid passage of food through the digestive system (sorry if that’s TMI. However, if you want to know more about this stuff, check out our article on vegan poop!).
Vegan diets are generally higher in fiber anyway, but to aid your gut health that bit more, we suggest a portion of almonds a day.
Almonds are a brilliant source of minerals phosphorus and magnesium – both essential in bone-building and teeth strengthening.
Due to their high mineral content, almonds could play a brilliant part in preventing tooth decay, lowering the risk of bone fractures, increasing bone density, and fighting osteoporosis. (14)
Who needs dairy for strong bones? Not us!
Almonds: A buyers guide
So, now we know just how good almonds can be for us when incorporated into a balanced diet, how do we go about buying them? Here’s a quick guide:
Different ways to buy
Almonds come in a variety of forms, including:
Whole nuts can be purchased shelled or unshelled and are best suited for simple snacking and eating “as is”. Whole almonds will often be sold raw – meaning they haven’t yet been roasted.
Yep, you can actually buy and eat unripe almonds. These are eaten when they’re still green and fleshy and the outer shell has yet to harden. The fruit is a little sour but remains a real delicacy in the Middle East, where they are eaten dipped in salt to balance the sourness.
Sometimes, you may find roasted almonds on your grocery shelves. This is when a supplier takes whole, raw almonds and pops them into a hot oven to develop the rich, nutty flavours. These nuts are often great in baking, or again for snacking as their flavour is much “nuttier”.
Roasted almonds are either sold plain or salted and seasoned for easy snacking.
Blanching is a process whereby raw, whole almonds are initially boiled before being submerged in ice water to halt the cooking process. Blanching removed the skins of the almonds as well as increasing the shelf life of the nut.
Blanched almonds are often used in dishes where color (or lack of) is important, as the skins of almonds can impart an undesirable hue to pale dishes.
What to look for
When browsing the aisles of the grocery store, you’ll find, as mentioned above, that you can buy almonds in many different forms: sliced, whole, slivered and blanched as well as the whole variety of almond based products that include almond milk, butter, oil, flour and paste.
If you’re buying unshelled almonds, be sure to give them a little shake. Hear a rattling sound? The nut inside (or seed if we’re being correct!) is probably dried up and a little past its best.
If your nuts come shelled make sure they’re still good before each use by slicing a couple of nuts in half. Is this inside discoloured, yellowish or honeycomb textured?
Chuck ‘em out.
Almonds should always be creamy white and solid inside – and rancid nuts can make you quite poorly!
Should you buy organic?
USDA pasteurization laws state that nut growers and processors must steam-heat raw almonds in order to pasteurize them. Because of this, you’ll find very few nasties in American grown almonds in terms of bugs or bacteria.
However, due to their high oil content, almonds can easily absorb pesticides used in the growing process. If you have any concerns over certain chemicals or pesticides, it may be best to choose organic if you can, to avoid any issues altogether.
Storing almonds tips
Since almonds have a high fat content, it is important to store them correctly to protect them from becoming rancid. To get the best out of them, almonds should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from direct exposure to sunlight – a cupboard or pantry is ok, but a refrigerator is even better.
Popping the nuts in the fridge will increase their shelf life even longer, and freezing even longer than that. Natural almonds (in the shell) can last up to two years, though freshness and quality will be most maintained in the fridge or freezer. Roasted almonds will keep for around a year in the fridge or freezer.
Remember, if an almond looks, smells or tastes “funny”, then throw it away. Crack open a couple in the rest of the bag to be sure, but if you have any concerns discard the old almonds and purchase fresh ones – after all, two years is a pretty good shelf-life!
Ways to consume almonds
Here are a few ways to add almonds to your diet:
The most obvious use for the drupe is, of course, in food.
Most commonly eaten plain as a snack, almonds are also sold seasoned or roasted for a perfect midday pick-me-up. In Italy, almonds are the base for Amaretti whilst in France almonds are used to make Macarons. Marzipan is another dish made predominantly with almonds – utilizing almond paste and sugar to make the sweet, sticky confection.
Another popular almond-based food is Almond butter. Almond butter has risen hugely in popularity – often due to peanut allergies preventing people from buying peanut butter. Almond butter is often healthier than its peanut counterpart, too, which is mainly because things like sugar, salt and palm oil are added to commercial PBs.
Because of it’s naturally sweeter taste and higher oil content, almonds generally need no additives when making almond butter – great if you’re following a clean diet or avoiding things like palm oil. Check out our best food processor for nut butters post if this is something you’re interested in trying at home.
Almond milk is widely considered the king of non-dairy milks. It’s even overtaken soy as the moo-free milk of choice in the USA, and not without good reason.
Almond milk is creamy and has a mildly nutty flavour that pairs well with most hot drinks and foods, making it a great alternative for those that actively avoid dairy and for those who may be allergic to soya products.
The basic method for making almond milk involves grinding almonds in a blender with water then straining the mixture through a cheesecloth. It’s really easy to make at home and a bonus is that your homemade milk will have a much higher percentage of nuts that commercially bought brands.
You can even make a simplified almond milk by gradually watering down almond butter (look for butter that have no additives) to the desired consistency in a pinch.
However, the bonus of commercial milks is that they often come fortified with vitamins and minerals. Fortified almond milk is rich in calcium, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin D whilst also being low in calories – it has 0 mg of cholesterol compared with 24mg in whole milk.
This short video will help you begin creating some non-dairy delights:
Almonds are a brilliant source of oils, with almost 50% of the dry mass of a kernel being oil. Almond oil is obtained by drying then pressing the seed kernels to extract the oil. It’s a rich source of omega-6 and 9 and contains high amounts of vitamin E – 100ml provides 261% of the recommended daily allowance.
Almond oil has a smooth, buttery flavour that pairs well with vegetables and soups, and it can also be used in dressings.
As it’s generally a cold pressed oil, you should reserve almond oil for drizzling or for use in baked goods, as high heat from frying or sautéing will mar the delicate flavours and alter the nutritional profile, not to mention the potential for raising its carcinogenic profile when heated beyond its smoke point of 420℉ (216℃).
Should you soak almonds?
All nuts contain a substance called “Phytic acid”. When phytic acid is consumed, it binds to a multitude of vitamins and minerals in the digestive system – meaning they cannot be properly absorbed by the body.
In extreme cases this can actually lead to mineral deficiencies. Almonds also contain “enzyme inhibitors” in their skin which can slow down and interfere with digestion.
The best way to remove both of these substances? By soaking, of course!
Digestion and nutrients
Phytic acid prevents the absorption of iron, calcium and zinc into the body, while “tannins” present in the skin of the almonds prevents reuse of absorbed vitamins and minerals.
What this means is that healthy handful of vitamin and mineral absorbed nuts is actually preventing your body from using all the goodness!
Some studies have shown that by simply soaking the nuts, the body can absorb 60% more magnesium and 20% more zinc when phytic acid is removed – that’s a big improvement!
Soaking also ensures digestion is effective and efficient – even for sensitive systems.
Soaking aficionados also cite steeping these nuts for improved texture.
The overnight soaking makes the skin slip off and the actual nut much easier to chew – giving it a smoother, more pleasant “mouth feel”. This also makes almonds far more beneficial for younger children, who may find raw nuts difficult to chew and swallow.
How to soak almonds
To soak almonds, all you need is some almonds, some filtered water and a bowl.
Pop the nuts in a bowl with 2 cups water for every ½ cup of almonds. Leave overnight then drain, pop in an airtight container and put in the fridge.
Soaked almonds will only last around a week, even when properly stored in the fridge, so do this in small batches rather than soaking whole bags!
What about sprouting?
Sprouting is soakings next-level, more intense cousin – taking the health benefits of soaking one step further.
But, if soaking is already time consuming, why should you bother adding another step that can take 3-4 days on top?
Health benefits of sprouting almonds
Well, firstly sprouting increases vitamin B content, especially B2, B5, and B6. Sprouting also produces vitamin C and increases carotene dramatically – sometimes up to eight times the amount found in your ordinary store bought almonds!
As well as increasing levels of certain nutrients, sprouting also releases and enzyme called “lipase”. Lipase is the enzyme used to digest fats in the body and good sources of this enzyme include fruits, vegetables or sprouted seeds, nuts or grains.
However, lipase is actually broken down when foods are heated, so if you don’t consume many raw fruits or veggies, sprouted almonds could a be a brilliant alternative.
How to sprout almonds
It’s really easy to sprout almonds, it just requires a little more time from the initial soaking.
The first step is to soak the almonds, as explained above, overnight or for at least 8-12 hours. Once soaked, tip away the old water and rinse the almonds with some fresh, filtered water.
Dry the almonds with a tea towel or a couple of paper towels. Pop the almonds back into a container, covered with something like a coffee filter, muslin or cheesecloth, so that air can circulate but nasties are kept at bay.
After each day, rinse the nuts with filtered water, dry, then cover again. Keep repeating these steps until you see little sprouts forming from the tip of the almond. Congratulations, you’ve successfully grown a sprout!
The only thing to be mindful of is mould. In warmer, damper climates you may see a little mildew growing on the nuts – in which case, you should discard them. To prevent mould or mildew, just ensure the nuts are fully dried after each rinse.
With an expanded knowledge of the humble almond, why not start cooking up a storm with them!
Here are a few of my favorite recipes that include the wonder nut:
5-Ingredient Vegan Almond Ricotta
One of the things all of us vegans take the choice to give up is dairy products – most notably, cheese.
The vast majority of vegan cheese recipes are made with cashews, but this one bucks that trend by making use of delicious almonds! Whip up this almond cheese in no time at all with this recipe from The Minimalist Baker.
Kale Almond Vegan Pesto
There are few meals simpler than serving up some pasta with a heaping spoonful of rich, herby, pesto.
As we know, commercial pesto normally contains pine nuts, basil and parmesan. This recipe from A Virtual Vegan, however, turns that on its head by using kale for greens, almonds for nuttiness, and a little nutritional yeast for that savory, cheesy taste. Yum!
Vegan Almond Butter Fudge
Not much beats a rich, creamy bite of fudge when your sweet tooth is raging. This recipe from Loving It Vegan keeps things super simple, but super sweet, by combining 4 simple ingredients to create this moreish bite of goodness – and it’s much healthier than the stuff you’ll find in grocery stores!
Vegan Almond Pulp Crackers
Got lots of leftover almond pulp after making a fresh batch of almond milk? This recipe from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken, makes good use of those leftovers by transforming them into these crispy crackers.
Cheesy and garlicky, these crackers would make a great accompaniment to a tasty vegan cheese board, or dipped in hummus!
Vegan Almond Butter Cups
Sure, peanut butter cups are good and all – but have you ever had the pleasure of trying almond butter cups? This recipe by Divas Can Cook utilizes just 4 ingredients – so you can whip these up in no time.
Super nutty and much, much healthier than the grocery store alternative, these cups are there to transform your snacking.
Are there any downsides?
As with any food, there are downsides as well as benefits – so here we’ll delve into a few of the pressing issues surrounding this super seed.
Can almonds interfere with prescribed medication?
Though packed full of various vitamins and minerals, almonds can sometimes interfere with prescribed medications. Almonds are high in a mineral called “manganese”. In normal circumstances, this is great – almonds contain 0.6mg of manganese per serving and it’s recommended you consume between 1.8 – 2.3mg per day.
However, in some situations, eating a large quantity of almonds can be dangerous – especially if you have a diet already high in manganese. This is because large amounts of manganese in your bloodstream can inhibit or interfere with certain antipsychotic drugs and even have an effect on blood pressure meds, laxatives, antacids, and some antibiotics.
So stick to one or two portions a day, especially if you’re on any of the medications listed.
Can you eat too many?
In short, yes. Too much of any kind of food can be bad for you, but let’s dive into the specific reasons as to why overdoing it with almonds could have some unpleasant side effects:
We’ve already mentioned almonds healthy fats, but consume too much of these and you could see the scales tipping in the wrong direction. Almonds are highly caloric and if you don’t account for those calories in a balanced meal plan you may see your weight starting to creep up.
To put it in other words, 3,500 extra calories a week equals 1lb of weight gain – just 500 extra calories a day would put you into this category. You’d only need to be eating around 3 oz of almonds a day to be adding an extra pound to your weight per week.
So eat your almonds, but portion them out and remember moderation is key.
Suddenly upping your fiber intake with any kind of food can be a shock to the digestive system – and almonds are no exception.
Rich in fiber, eating these nuts in excess can lead to bloating, constipation and general discomfort. After all, they’re not the easiest food to digest – which is why soaking and sprouting is recommended for those who already struggle with GI issues.
Again, the key here is moderation and portion control.
Vitamin E overdose
Just 100g of almonds contains 25 mg of vitamin E – the RDA is 15mg. Now, consider if you’re actually eating 1 cup per day – that makes it 3 times your recommended allowance.
You may be fine with this, but if your diet is already rich in sources of vitamin E you may start to see unwanted side effects like diarrhea, weakness, and blurred vision.
Measure your portions people!
What about sustainability?
When a particular food type suddenly increases in popularity, it can significantly impact the sustainability of the produce involved.
Almonds have seen a huge surge in popularity as veganism has gone more mainstream and dairy-free is now considered en vogue.
So what impact has this had?
Filling a field with a single type of crop – called a “monoculture” – is a relatively easy, common and cheap way to produce food. Unfortunately, a whole raft of research shows that monoculture negatively impact environments through effects on soil quality, erosion, plants and animals and crop yields. (15, 16)
Monocultures don’t actually exist in nature, even ecosystems that seem dominated by one type of plant have multitudes of other species growing around them. This is because a diverse ecosystem supports diverse wildlife which in turn supports things like pollination and biological control.
Unfortunately for almonds, the sheer scale of modern monoculture and the use of herbicides and pesticides contribute greatly to decreasing the number of natural pollinators on agricultural land and force farmers to buy in pollination services from beekeepers.
The best way to combat this harmful effect? By creating greater biodiversity in plantations. Huge swathes of almond trees with little else actually discourages natural pollinators – so hopefully our almond farms will begin to take steps to combat this.
One of the biggest controversies surrounding commercial almond growing is the huge amount of water needed to produce a single nut – 1.1 gallons!
When you pair this with the fact that California suffers from drought and water shortages every year, you can see how this has the potential to be an environmental concern.
It’s worth remembering, however that there are much stranger uses for California’s dwindling water supply than almonds. Hay and corn are both grown by depleting the desert aquifers for water. And what do we think that the hay and corn is used on? You guessed it, to feed cattle. (17)
Almonds are actually a far more efficient use of water, per calorie, than dairy or beef. In fact a gallon of milk uses a staggering 880 gallons of water for bottling, processing, raising, and grazing cattle.
The good news is, almond producers across California are utilizing different methods of farming to ensure a healthy supply of h2o for many years to come.
Things like drip irrigation and efficient micro sprinklers are being used to apply water directly to the roots of the plants. Some are even calling for a return of “dry farming” where tree roots are trained to grow deeper and seek out water supplies for themselves. (18)
The easiest way to be a conscious consumer is to buy from smaller, local and organic farms; ones that produce on a much smaller scale and don’t employ the same damaging farming practices as the larger commercial concerns.
Should vegans even be eating almonds?
This is a tough one for us vegans. In basic terms a nut (or drupe, or seed) is inherently vegan as it involves no animal products. However, there has been some recent controversies about the use of bees in the en masse pollination of California’s almonds.
So, are they even vegan? And should we be eating them at all?
Bees and almonds
Due to a lack of natural pollinators in California, huge swathes of beehives are transported across the country in huge trucks with a single job in mind – pollinating the massive almond plantations grown across California.
Bees that get treated in this way are very vulnerable to a whole host of diseases which spread from colony to colony. Queen bees are often killed after every season to make way for a younger and fresher queen. Almond farming in California is definitely not kind to the bee.
As vegans we know we should skip on the honey, but is it practical to give up on foods artificially pollinated altogether? Well, not if you like cherries, plums, avocados, butternut squash, lettuce, peaches, cucumbers, broccoli, pears, tomatoes, and many other things you’ll regularly find on your plate.
The definition of veganism itself “is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”.
That in itself suggests you can carry on eating almonds with a conscience – though the choice is there should you choose to exclude them, it’s not always practical.
Can you grow almonds at home?
If you’re looking to embark on an almond growing expedition, it’s important to know that the trees don’t tolerate overly wet soil or spring frosts: they need mild, wet winters and hot dry summers in full sun. If your climate doesn’t match these needs, it’ll be pretty unlikely that an almond tree will thrive where you are.
You can grow an almond from a seed or cutting, but due to the time it takes a tree to reach maturity we’d suggest buying it as a shrub or small tree and planting accordingly. Some varieties of almond are not self-pollinating, meaning you will need at least 2 or 3 trees in order to get almonds from your trees.
Check with the nursery or seedling supplier before buying so that you don’t end up with just one tree that won’t make you any nuts.
Almond trees benefit from lots of watering in the first few years, as well as plenty of sunshine. Once matured, they can provide you with a yearly harvest of nuts for up to 50 years once they start, which is usually by the age of five years.
Just bear in mind that almonds are a rather picky plant and may not grow well for everyone – it’s best to consult someone with a bit of growing knowledge to select a variety that will supply you with the nut for years to come.
So that’s it! Your whistle stop tour of the mighty almond is complete.
It’s gone from nut to drupe and from milk to cheese – proving why this ingredient is such a vegan favorite and looks set to remain so for many years to come.
Do you have a favorite almond based recipe? Something you’d like to weigh in on the water debate? Pop us a comment below!
About The Author:
Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.
Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!
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- Neuroscientifically Challenged Staff | Know Your Brain: Amygdala
- Logan Hawkes | Global almond production up, walnut production down; China trade slips | https://www.farmprogress.com/tree-nuts/global-almond-production-walnut-production-down-china-trade-slips
- Nadia Chaouali, Ines Gana, Amira Dorra, Fathia Khelifi, Anouer Nouioui, Wafa Masri, Ines Belwaer, Hayet Ghorbel, and Abderazzek Hedhili | Potential Toxic Levels of Cyanide in Almonds (Prunus amygdalus), Apricot Kernels (Prunus armeniaca), and Almond Syrup | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3793392/
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2 thoughts on “Almonds 101: Health Benefits, Nutrition, Soaking, Sprouting, & More”
Great article, no pip left unturned. As a bit of perspective on growing conditions and methods, here on our finca in Spain we have secano (rain-fed) almond trees in amongst olives, no drip irrigation, nada. Average annual rainfall about 550mm. Most rain falls in the winter, where it gets cold, minus 5 and at times down to -12 or -15C, with long hot summers (up to 49C in the full sun this year, which made us all wilt a bit).
We fertilise around the trees with horse poop and mulch with straw. The horses graze the terracing where there are no chemicals of any sort. To be honest I wouldn’t even know what pesticides or chemicals you would need for an almond tree. They last about 30-50 years by all accounts, but not sure what the future brings, apart from a really good think.
I would definitely endorse what you say about monoculture practices, it is crazy, destructive and expensive, the opposite of what you would think would interest farmers living off the land. We are planting water, ie adapting the orchards for storing water in the earth to naturally “irrigate” the trees. Changing rainfall and weather patterns demands it I think.
We use no machines for maintenance, tilling or harvesting.
Contrary to local popular belief that all wild almonds are bitter, it seems to be 50-50 sweet and bitter, and they don’t seem to need any encouragement growing from seed around here.
Hope that adds a bit to your conversation, thanks
What a great comment! Thanks for taking the time Andy, appreciate hearing your side of things.
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