Almond (Prunus amygdalus)

Leaves of an Almond plantThe almond tree, which sometimes grows to 12.2 meters (40 feet), looks like a peach tree. The fresh almond fruit resembles a gnarled, unripe peach and grows in clusters. The stone (the almond itself) is covered with a thick, dry, woolly skin. When flowering, they will have many white flowers (pink flowers indicate bitter almonds which should be avoided if possible).

Almonds from an almond treeWhere to FInd: Almonds are found in the scrub and thorn forests of the tropics, the evergreen scrub forests of temperate areas, and in desert scrub and waste in all climatic zones. The almond tree is also found in the semi-desert areas of the Old World in southern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, Iran, the Middle East, China, Madeira, the Azores, and the Canary Islands.

An almond treeEdible Parts: The mature almond fruit splits open lengthwise down the side, exposing the ripe almond nut. You can easily get the dry kernel by simply cracking open the stone. Almond meats are rich in food value, like all nuts. Gather them in large quantities and shell them for further use as survival food. You could live solely on almonds for rather long periods. When you boil them, the kernel’s outer covering comes off and only the white meat remains.

A bitter almond treeNote: The seeds are predominately sweet but some individual trees produce seeds that are somewhat more bitter. The fruits from some species are always bitter (typically these species have pink flowers rather than white).  The bitter almond is slightly broader and shorter than the sweet almond. It also contains the enzyme emulsin which, in the presence of water, yields glucose, cyanide and the essential oil of bitter almonds, which is nearly pure benzaldehyde. Bitter almonds may yield from 4-9 mg of hydrogen cyanide per almond. Extract of bitter almond was once used medicinally, but in larger doses can be deadly (some say around a dozen or more bitter almonds can be deadly).  he cyanide must be removed before consumption.  In some countries, moderate amounts of bitter almonds are consumed but in the America’s they are illegal to import.

Almond nut on a almond tree branch

Almond flowers

Green almond nuts

Almond nuts on a almond tree branch

Almond plant/tree drawing showing the various parts of an almond tree