The almond industry has boomed in recent years and production has more than quadrupled in the past 30 years alone. It’s clear that almonds now play a vital role in the diets of modern society, but where did they originate from and how far back can we trace their history? Read on to find out more...
Almonds have a long and rich history that can be traced back for thousands of years. Originating in Western and Central Asia, almonds grew wild and were likely foraged by our ancestors before their domestication in 4000BC, at which time they were cultivated, becoming a popular food across Asia. Explorers traveling the ‘Silk Road’ between Asia and the Mediterranean from 600-900AD enjoyed the nutritious properties of almonds on their travels, discarding uneaten kernels across Italy and Spain and spreading almond cultivation abroad. It wasn’t until the mid-1700s that the first almond groves were planted in California, but these trees didn’t enjoy their home on new soil, and it took a further 100 years for an almond cross-breed to be cultivated that thrived in the dryer Californian climate.
Almonds through history
In the same way that we value almonds for their dense nutritional benefits, as did those through history and there is evidence of nomadic tribes grinding up almond kernels for use in high-energy, on-the-go snacks from as far back as the 4th century BC - even King Tutankhamen was buried with almonds to sustain him in the afterlife!
Aside from archaeological evidence, almonds are also referenced in historical manuscripts, such as the Bible, in which we see reference to both almond trees and to almond fruit. In the Bible, almond blossom is used to symbolize hope and almond fruit is described as ‘the best in the land’. The idea that almonds are a symbol of luxury, good fortune and decadence has continued for many years, traveling down through the Romans and into many of our cultures today.
Today, almonds are still considered to be good luck and are handed out to wedding guests in many ceremonies held across Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Greece. Aside from being a symbol of hope and good fortune, it is also still believed that almonds can help to bring about fertility, an idea that is actually backed up by science!
The use of almonds in cuisine has also increased dramatically in the past 30 years, with the nut now used to make a variety of non-dairy alternatives including milk, yogurt, cheese, and even chocolate. The rise in demand for almonds has seen California more than quadruple its production of almonds, becoming the single largest almond producer in the world, dedicating more than half a million acres of land across the Fresno, San Joaquin, and Sacramento valleys to its almond groves. Almond production is now also highly regulated, with the almonds now graded based on a number of quality control factors.
Almonds have played a significant role in the lives of people for more than 5000 years and thanks to their delicious flavor, dense nutritional properties, longevity, transportability, and versatility, they will likely continue to do so for many more years to come.