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Israel’s almond trees are the first to bloom each year, coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat — the New Year for Trees — which falls on February 11 this year.
Almond blossoms are extraordinarily beautiful, giving a white and pink glow to the cold winter and a promise of the warm spring ahead.
The edible seed of the almond fruit is nothing special to look at, but contains a superfood nutritional profile. Reuven Birger, chairman of Israeli Almond Board, says almonds are becoming ever more popular as an excellent plant source of calcium and protein.
Birger tells ISRAEL21c that in 2016, 6,200 tons of almond kernels (the edible part) were harvested from 45,000 dunams (11,120 acres) of almond trees in Israel. Another 5,000 dunams (1,200 acres) of young almond trees, not yet producing nuts, will be critical in helping meet demand, as Israelis now consume about 7,000 tons of almonds per year.
Bet you didn’t know all these cool facts about almonds.
- The almond fruit technically isn’t a nut but a drupe. The part we eat is the kernel, or seed, inside the elongated stone (shell). Other drupes are peaches, plums, cherries, walnuts and pecans.
- University of Haifa researchers discovered that almond flower nectar contains a unique poison that does not harm bees, and which bees find irresistible. The scientists speculate that this toxic substance therefore gives the almond tree a reproductive advantage. Blooming almond trees in the Elah Valley. Photo by Nati Shohat/FLASH90
- Almonds provide calcium, protein, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, B vitamins, natural fiber, antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fat. Studies show they protect against diabetes, gallstones and cardiovascular disease.
- While the United States produces the most almonds in the world, Israeli almonds are larger, tastier, and contain 10% more calcium than American and most other varieties.
- Last summer, Almond Board of California Director of Agricultural Affairs Bob Curtis and almond grower Don Cameron of Terranova Ranch joined a delegation from the California Department of Food and Agriculture in a fact-finding trip to see how the Israel’s advanced irrigation and planting strategies and technologies lead to better efficiency and sustainability.
An almond tree blossoming in the Judean Hills. Photo by Yossi Zamir/FLASH90
- The biblical book of Genesis describes almonds as “among the best of fruits.” There are nine additional mentions of almonds or almond blossoms in the Hebrew Scriptures. In Christian iconography, almond branches symbolize the virgin birth.
- The seven-branch menorah (candelabra) in the Holy Temple was meant to resemble an almond blossom as described in Exodus: “Three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on one branch, with a knob and a flower; and three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on the other… on the candlestick itself were four cups, shaped like almond blossoms, with its knobs and flowers.” Image of the golden menorah by Evikka/.com
- Almond oil is used in many made-in-Israel cosmetics such as body butter and facial scrubs and creams. Almond oil is also used in traditional medicines, aromatherapy and pharmaceuticals.
- The word “almond” derives from the Greek word “amygdala,” which is why the almond-shaped structures in the brain are called amygdalae.
- The Hebrew word for almond, shaked (pronounced “shah-kaid”) is also a popular name for both boys and girls.
- There’s an entire museum in Israel dedicated to marzipan, also known as almond candy dough, at Shaked Tavor in Kfar Tavor in the Jezreel Valley. Shaked Tavor offers Tu B’Shvat tours and year-round marzipan and chocolate workshops on Fridays and holidays.
Innocent, gently and fresh. These are words that might readily come up in your mind when you are asked to describe an almond tree.
Although the Almond tree is native to regions in the Middle East, it has become a common sight all over the world, well except in Antarctica.
Almond trees are closely related to peaches and they are also known for the oil that is extracted from the fruits. The oil is useful for skin and hair care and that is why Almond is one of the most coveted trees in the beauty industry.
The usefulness of Almond did not start today. Almonds have been commonly used by man for a period that dates back even to Bible Times.
Let us now consider how the Almond tree has been symbolized and the meaning it bears from the Bible’s standpoint.
Almond tree symbolism
A first glance when it blossoms, the Almond tree is a wonderful sight to behold. It is simply beautiful and precious. The tree usually blossoms late in January or early in February. When this happens, it signifies that the ideas of early or beginning.
Almonds trees also bear significant symbolism in religion. Jews who practice Judaism consider the Almond tree to be a sign for the “Tree of Life”.
This view is further seen in the method that the Menorah (Some sort of candle holder used in celebrating Hanukkah) is shaped.
Aside from Judaism, Almond trees also have cultural meanings. The Aramaic word for Almonds, “luz” when translated can be said to mean “Light”.
The Canaanites and Sumerians also have stories that feature Almond trees as a symbol of light.
Almond tree meaning
As we have earlier mentioned, Almond trees often symbolize early because they are one of the first flowers to blossom at the start of the year. This attribute has allowed for the Almond tree to mean virginity.
The nature of the fruit gives a similar picture to purity and virginity. How? The outer skin of the fruit covers the nuts that are kept within, which immediately brings up the idea that what is within is important and kept sacred; just as is the case with virginity.
Indians also see Almond as connected to sex and they consider anyone who eats it to have performed a sexual act.
One big factor that contributed to making Almond considered as a symbol of virginity is the myth of Atys. People believe that the god Atys was conceived from an almond by a virgin.
It is also believed that having a dream about almond means that you have a problem or issue that is connected with sex.
Biblical meaning of an Almond tree
The almond tree is placed with high regard in the Bible. This we know because of the number of times that it was mentioned and also the circumstances that surrounded why it was mentioned. The almond tree was mentioned both in the Hebrew and Greek part of the scriptures.
An almond tree was mentioned in the very first book of the Bible at Genesis 43:11. Here Almond is described as one of the finest products in the land which shows just how important it is.
Later in Exodus 25:33, the Israelites were given the instruction on how the Golden Lampstand in the Tabernacle should look.
The lampstand was to have cups like almond blossoms. This gives the meaning that almonds played an important role in worship.
When God wanted to choose His spokesman, He asked them to set down their rod and the rod of the person that blossoms, is the one He chooses.
The next morning, Aaron’s rod budded almond leaves and ripe fruits. In this case, almond was used as a sign of approval.
Symbol of resurrection
One bible research site called Plants of the Bible is mentioned to have said that almonds meant a symbol of resurrection because they were one of the trees that blossomed first.
Another reference was made to Almond trees at Ecclesiastes 12:5. In this verse, the almond tree is used to represent old age. Almond blossoms are usually white in color which signifies the grey hair of an old man or woman.
Apart from the great benefits that we can enjoy from almond trees, either the beautifying effects or taste; the almond tree is one that has a lot of meaning.
Many cultures view it as a sign of virginity, some others see it as the “Tree of life” because of it’s beautiful white flowers blossom first among the trees.
In the Bible, the almond tree carries a lot of meaning. It is used as a sign of approval, as a symbol of resurrection and sometimes it could be understood to mean old age. Whatever the case, almond trees are a symbol of good things.
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Beautiful drone video of Northern California almond blossoms | Bartell’s Backroads
ESCALON, Calif. — It’s almond blossom season in Northern California, and that means your Facebook and Instagram feeds will be stacked with flower-filled selfies. It’s a magical time, but it’s also a very important biological event.
Around Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties, the almond bloom almost always starts the week of St. Valentine’s Day.
Danielle Veenstra grew up on her family’s 40-acre almond orchard in Escalon. She says it’s a romantic time of year, but not necessarily for humans. Honey bees are actively out pollinating each tree.
“Every almond that we eat is because of these bees, so, if we didn’t have bees, we wouldn’t have almonds,” said Veenstra. The bees in her orchard were put out at the beginning of February and will stay through March.
Bee hives sit among an orchard of blooming almond trees in Escalon, Calif. KXTV / Evan Hinojos
Almond trees need bees to move pollen from one flower to the next, and, to make sure that happens, the almond tree attracts the bees with vibrantly colored flowers and sweet smelling nectar.
The bees work fast. Within a matter of weeks, nearly every branch on every tree will be pollinated, and the orchard floor will be littered with beautiful pink and purple peddles.
“When they start dropping their peddles like this, you can actually see an almond inside,” Veenstra added.
The almonds will be ready to harvest by mid-August but only if the flower buds don’t freeze.
Aside from the yearly display, the blossoms also are a reminder of how important almonds are to our economy. About 80% of the worlds almonds grow in California, according to Veenstra. The bloom may be beautiful but it’s also one of our most important crops.
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The almond is the product of an almond tree and almost all of the world’s wholesale almonds come from California. Farmers grow almonds trees throughout the year and harvest them between the months of August to October. Dependent on water, it takes almost 1 gallon of water to produce each almond.
The best conditions for almond tree farming are climates conducive to a particular winter chilling, which limits almond tree farming to a few regions in the world. Outside of California, you’ll also find almond farmers in Spain, Italy, Australia, Greece, Morocco, Turkey, and Portugal.
As we are starting to see the first almond blooms of the season, let’s delve in deeper on the almond tree farming process.
From Bud to Bloom
From November to February, the buds of the almond tree need to go through the cold weather, but it’s a balance since they can be negatively impacted by a heavy frost. In late February and early March, the almond tree begins to produce blossoms that are ready for pollination.
Since there are different varietals, the time frame of when blooms occur can vary. Climate variation is considered one of the most critical phases in growing almond trees since it can profoundly impact the harvest size. Between late February and early March, almond tree buds burst into beautiful light pink and white blooms in preparation for pollination.
The Pollination Process
Once the almond tree has blossomed, the second phase is pollination. Many almond trees are not self-pollinating, so bees provide the missing piece of the puzzle. Populations of bees are brought to the orchard to carry pollen and initiate crop development.
The Maturing and Hull-Split of Almonds
From March to June the almond tree begins to transform the blossoms into an almond in their hull. Also at this time, green almonds are harvested for various culinary uses. By mid-to-late summer, almond hulls begin to split open exposing the almond shell and allowing it to dry. Shortly before harvest, the hulls open completely.
Almond Tree Harvesting and Processing
The harvest season for almond farmers is from August to October. The growers have mechanical tree shakers which allow the almonds to fall to the ground. For the next 8 – 10 days, the almonds continue to dry in their shell in the orchard and are then swept and picked up by machines.
The drying process of the almonds is critical for the most optimal harvest. At this point, the almonds are transported in their shells onto a roller where the shells, hulls and remaining debris are removed. Every part of the harvest from the almonds to shells to hulls are utilized. After sizing, almonds are kept in controlled storage conditions to maintain quality until they’re shipped to market through various packaging methods and sold as wholesale almonds.
The almond, Amygdalus communis, is a medium sized tree with narrow, light green leaves. Unlike the fig and olive, the almond does not live to a great age. The almond is a well-known symbol of resurrection because it is the first tree to flower. The white, five-parted flowers are up to two inches across and come in the late winter before the leaves of the tree develop. Because they may flower as early as late January or early February, it is sometimes possible to find almond flowers with snow.
Within a month after flowering the distinctive hairy green fruits begin to develop. These have a pleasantly sour taste and are picked and sold as a very popular snack for Arabs. My children enjoyed them when in grade school! In the middle of August the nuts are harvested at the end of the growing season as the leaves begin to fall. The almond is a close relative of such stone fruits as peach, apricots, and cherries. But unlike these relatives, the fruits of the almonds are quite unusual in the way in which they open. The leathery outer covering splits at maturity releasing the stone.
Almonds are mentioned six times in the Scriptures and only in the Old Testament. The first reference is in Genesis 43:11 where Jacob, in an apparent attempt to curry favor with the ruler of Egypt, orders his sons to take some of the “best products of the land” including almonds. The best-known reference to the almond is Aaron’s rod that budded (Numbers 17). This is miraculous because the flowering, budding, and fruiting of the almond in nature are always separated in time.
The almond motif was part of the divine design for the lampstand in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:33-34, 37:19-20). Moses was instructed to make the bowls of the lampstand in the shape of the almond flower. The buds and fruits were also to be present, however.
The reference to almonds in Ecclesiastes 12:5 presents some difficulty. The word translated “flourisheth” (KJV) and “blossoms” (NIV) can mean two apparently contradictory things. The reference could be to the masses of white flowers on the almond tree, an allusion to the white hair of old age. Or it could mean to be “despised.”
The last reference to the almond is in Jeremiah 1:11. “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ‘I see the branch of an almond tree’, I replied.” The Hebrew word for almond sounds similar to that for watchful.
Almond and Almonds References