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Almond Day

“When an almond tree became covered with blossoms in the heart of winter, all the trees around it began to jeer.

'What vanity,' they screamed, 'what insolence! Just think, it believes it can bring spring in this way!'

The flowers of the almond tree blushed for shame.

'Forgive me, my sisters,' said the tree. 'I swear I did not want to blossom, but suddenly I felt a warm springtime breeze in my heart.”

~ Nikos Kazantzakis, Saint Francis, 1956

The beautifully flowered almond tree produces almond fruit which is not actually a nut, but a drupe. Stone fruits, such as plums, cherries, dates, mangoes, and apricots, are all part of this classification. Of the various drupes, in some cases, people eat both the skin and the sweet flesh inside, but discard the bitter and inedible pit and seed. In other cases, such as the almond and walnuts, people eat only the seed, which are usually culinarily classified as nuts because of their fleshy texture and high fat content. Domesticated almonds appear as early as the Early Bronze Age (3000–2000 BC) and were even found in Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt (c. 1325 BC) as an item worthy to carry into the afterlife. And although almonds have been cultivated as far north as the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Germany, and even Iceland, currently California, Spain, and Australia are the prime suppliers of almonds. Almonds need very hot weather and cool winters to grow and are reliant on wild and domesticated honey bees for crop pollination. In California, almond growers often rent bees to accomplish this! Beekeepers as far away as Florida transport billions of bees to the Central Valley in California to assist with almond growing season. 🌸 🐝

By designer Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan reflects the colors of a young almond bush.

Native to the Mediterranean climate region of the Middle East, it was spread by humans in ancient times along the shores of the Mediterranean into northern Africa and southern Europe, and more recently transported to other parts of the world, notably California, United States.   

The pollination of California's almonds is the largest annual managed pollination event in the world, with close to one million hives (nearly half of all beehives in the USA) being trucked in February to the almond groves. Much of the pollination is managed by pollination brokers, who contract with migratory beekeepers from at least 49 states for the event.

Greek mythology tells a tragic love story about the creation of the almond tree.  It begins when Phyllis, a beautiful daughter of a king of Thrace who fell in love with Demophon of Athens, the son of Theseus, as he traveled though Thrace on his return from the Trojan War.

After a period of happiness, Demophon, duty bound to Greece, returned home to help his father, leaving Phyllis behind and forgetting her. Phyllis waited hopelessly for many years for his return, and eventually, forlorn and heart-broken, died of a broken heart. Out of pity, the gods transformed Phyllis into the almond tree.  When the errant and remorseful Demophon returned, he found the Phyllis tree, naked without leaves and flowers. Desperately, he hugged the tree, which suddenly flooded with flowers, showing that love cannot be defeated by death.

Click the picture for information about the sugared almond and its use in modern Greek rites of passage. 

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