Why Australian almonds are so awesome and what you can do with them
Australian almonds are awesome in so many ways that it can be difficult to know where to start.
So, in our ultimate guide to all things almond we begin with the basics. We look at where, and how, they grow. We also look at the many ways that almonds can benefit your health.
Finally, we have some ideas on what you can do with your Australian almonds once you get them home.
Where do almonds come from?
Also known as sweet almonds, almonds are the edible seed of a stone fruit related to peach and apricot. Originally from Asia, almonds grow in many parts of the Mediterranean, California, and right here in Australia. In fact, did you know that they are one of Australia’s most important crops? They boost our economy, our communities and our way of life.
There are over 15 million almond trees across Australia, mostly concentrated in the Riverina region, Sunraysia, and the Riverland plains of Northern Adelaide. A beautiful sight.
How do almonds grow?
Almond trees are blessed with that rare ethereal beauty of all blossoming trees. Grown in orchards, the buds first appear in winter and blossoms burst into life around July. In full bloom by late winter, the almond blossom is ready for pollination by bees. A perfect example of nature working in tandem, beekeepers place their hives in the orchards ready for pollination season. The trees benefit, and the byproduct of this is fresh floral scented honey. A win win.
The tiny green nutlets appear in spring and develop through the summer. Once developed, but before they split open, these are known as green almonds. Eaten as whole fruits, the green outside flesh can be somewhat bitter, but the young undeveloped almond kernel inside is pale, soft and creamy. By midsummer, the fruits open and expose the seed inside. This is the husk of the almond, within which lies the kernel.
Once split open, the nut itself begins to dry. The fruits are ready for harvest once the stem weakens and the fruit comes easily from the tree. Harvested between February and April, the almond fruits (known as drupes) are shaken from the trees. Left to dry on the orchard floor for about two weeks, they are then picked up and sent to the huller. The almonds are first hulled. Some are shelled whilst others are sold with the shell on. Some are processed further into blanched, slivered or chopped almonds. Or ground into almond meal or flour.
Should almonds be organic?
Because organic certification is an expensive and lengthy process that is not always of benefit to the farmers or the consumer, the questions here should be about sustainability and the use of pesticides. Big brand organic is not always what we expect it to be, as it often has only the bare minimum of legislative requirements met.
However, minimal intervention is something that we can all get behind. It is open to, and achievable by, the smallest of farms, and encompasses the true visions of what organic is all about. With a focus on food quality, environmental impact, and good husbandry, minimal intervention farming is free from harmful pesticides and damaging practices. An holistic approach to farming, it considers every impact at each step of the supply chain.
Are almonds good for you?
Australian almonds are a bonafide superfood and come with a host of nutritional benefits. Nuts have some of the highest antioxidant levels among plant foods and are also rich in fibre, healthy fats, plus other vitamins and minerals. There are roughly 20 almonds in a serving, which is equivalent to one quarter of a cup or 1 ounce. That’s a very small handful.
The health benefits of Australian almonds
Almonds are a good source of essential minerals zinc, magnesium and potassium. They are also rich in antioxidant Vitamin E that provides support for the tissues of the heart, brain and lungs. Monounsaturated fatty acids found in almonds can help to balance cholesterol levels.
A portion of almonds is made up of 13% carbohydrate, 13% protein and 74% healthy fats as well as a whole host of beauty boosting nutrients. Magnesium and potassium help to beat the bloat, whilst Vitamin E, biotin, and sebum regulating Vitamin B2 all help promote healthy hair, skin and nails.
Are roasted almonds as good as raw?
Whilst raw almonds have a certain creamy quality, a roasted almonds have a depth of flavour and a definite crunch. The water content of raw nuts is lost slightly through the roasting process so they become slightly more concentrated. The nutrient content remains the same, yet volatile antioxidants such as Vitamin E can be lost with the heat of roasting. If you prefer to eat roasted almonds, roasting them yourself means you can cook at lower temperatures and control the amount of oil and salt added.
Blanched almonds have the skin removed and are used in recipes where the brown skin would change the look or the taste of the dish. Most desserts and baking use blanched almonds instead of whole. The skin of almonds does have health benefits however, as it contains nutrients and increases fibre content.
What are activated almonds?
Activated almonds are soaked in salted water for anywhere between 7 and 24 hours. They are then dried slowly in a cool oven. The soaking process encourages germination and therefore increases the nutrient value, as well as breaking down phytic acid which can inhibit mineral absorption.
Is almond meal the same as almond flour?
Almond meal is made from raw, unpeeled almonds whilst almond flour is made from blanched almonds. Almond flour is finer and lighter in colour than almond meal so is more suited to lighter cakes and pastry.
Ground almonds are the same thing as almond flour. At some point during the rise of gluten free baking the name simply changed.
What can you do with almonds?
You can make your own almond butter.
You can make your own almond milk.
You can make your own almond meal.
You can blanch them.
You can roast them.
You can toast them.
You caramelise them.
Or you can of course just eat them.