Origin and History
Almonds are referred to several times in the Old Testament, and were considered a prize ingredient in the breads served to the Egyptian Pharaohs. The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm, but luck ran out at Pompeii — carbonized almonds were found in the ruins of that city, which was destroyed by an eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius. Almond trees are believed to have first been cultivated in China and then brought via the Silk Road to the Middle East and Europe. In the mid-1700s, Franciscan monks planted the first almond trees at California missions, but the moist, cool weather of the coastal missions did not provide the tree with optimum growing conditions. In the 1800s, almond trees were planted further inland with much greater success. By the turn of the 20th century, the almond industry was firmly established in the Sacramento and San Joaquin regions of California’s Central Valley. That 400-mile long area today produces 99 percent of the almonds grown in the United States and 80 percent of those grown worldwide.
Diamond almonds come in a variety of forms — whole, sliced and slivered — and are used as a snack food and in desserts such as marzipan, ice cream and chocolate recipes and in various culinary dishes. Almonds are chock full of the antioxidant vitamin E, protein, magnesium, calcium, fiber, the B vitamin folate and phosphorus.