Closely related to the rose and the peach, we have the almond an d it’s actually become the favourite child of many culinary experiments and traditional desserts.
Of course, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was only one variety of almond to feast your tastebuds on. After all, when we go to the shops, we typically buy a bag of almonds; nothing more, nothing less and nothing with any specificity past the size and shape of the cut. However, it turns out there are a few types of almonds and they vary depending on a number of different factors.
For example, the location, the cultivation methods, the time of the harvest and the different cooking methods that are used before eating them.
With that, the team here at The Hobby Kraze have found the opportunity to give you the ultimate fact file by answering some of the most common and frequently asked questions about the almond variety right here.
So, here’s what you can expect to be answered in this almond-y FAQ:
- Where Do Different Almonds Around the World Come From?
- What is the Difference Between Sweet Almonds and the Bitter Types of Almonds?
- How Many Forms of Almond Variety Are There?
- What Can You Do with Almonds You Can Eat?
- Can Almonds and Health Benefits be Linked?
- How Are the Types of Almonds a Sustainable Farming Method?
- What Are the 11 Different Types of Almonds?
Before we get cracking on this rather nutty adventure, we thought we’d tell you a fun fact about the types of almonds that the team here at The Hobby Kraze have picked up on their travels.
Without the bees, we’d have no almonds. Unlike other nuts, trees and plants that have a few pollination methods as well as varied animals that can carry their pollen, the almond is different.
Almond trees are completely reliant on honeybees as an angiosperm plant to carry their pollen around the area. In fact, all the different almonds around the world and their farms require farmers to hire dedicated bees to help with the pollination project of the season. Plus, it’s one of the most expensive parts to cultivating the almond: the bee rental.
Where Do Different Almonds Around the World Come From?
We’re all big foodies at heart here at The Hobby Kraze. So, when we talk about almonds, we’re referring to the sweet marzipan tastes of the nut.
Yet, this nut is only a small chunk of nature when it comes to the almond. In fact, the tree on which it grows as a seed, is also called the almond. Meaning the word ‘almond’ will have different denotations depending on where you are and who you’re talking to on your travels.
To get back to answering the question, almonds originate from Iran. And, while Iran and its surrounding countries have the perfect cultivating soil conditions for the almond tree, it’s not the sole source. In fact. 80% of the world’s almonds come from farms in California.
From Iran, the almond tree (scientifically called the Prunus Dulcis) was transported around the Mediterranean as well as moving on to Northern Africa All of this was before being introduced to far off conditions such as the temperate climates of California.
The types of almonds that grow on these trees have travelled around the world to be a pinnacle for almond experimentation in the hopes of finding the perfect almonds you can eat. In fact, the almonds and health benefits we know of today wouldn’t be here without this experimentation.
The tree, itself, grows to around 8 metres in height and 30cm in width (the trunk, at least). And, while it is a silver tree at maturity, the twigs start life as bright green sprigs before becoming a rich purple colour in the sun and growing into its silver branch as an adult. As for the flowers (because it is a deciduous tree that blooms and sheds), they’re large-petaled blooms that range from white to a pale pink.
If you want to find out more about the types of trees and what ‘deciduous’ means, have a look at our other article “The Types of Trees in the British Woodland and Beyond” where we go deep into the stump of it all!
P.S. these trees are very sensitive, demanding and a little undecisive. This is because they need both high levels of heat in the Summer and very cold Winters (plus a lot of water) in order to thrive and produce the almonds that make up everything from milk to forest mixes.
What is the Difference Between Sweet Almonds and the Bitter Types of Almonds?
If you’ve come here from our other article “A Foodie Guide to the Types of Nuts”, then you’ll have already heard mention of bitter almonds and sweet almonds.
Plus, it’s important to know the difference because – as it turns out – not all almonds are almonds you can eat!
Almonds and health benefits can go hand-in-hand as long as you’re aware of what you’re eating. Aside from one having a bitter taste and the other being a sweet snacking treat, there are types of almonds that have a toxin strong enough to cause us some damage.
This is because bitter almonds (which are much smaller in appearance to the sweet almonds) grow with dangerous amounts of cyanide within them.
On a more botanical level, it may or may not be interesting to know that the Prunus Dulcis var. Dulcis tree produces the seed known to be the sweet almonds and the Prunus Dulcis var. Amara tree produces the bitter almond variety.
However, while the sweet almond are the types of almonds you can eat, the bitter almond does have its time in the spotlight. If you’re one to indulge in a little marzipan or a sip of Amaretto liqueur (which is our favourite in terms of where some hobbies lie), it comes from the bitter almond. The almond’s oil is extracted, giving these iconic smells and tastes.
How Many Forms of Almond Variety Are There?
As a species who love to play with our food, we have a tendency to experiment with almond variety and the number of ways it can be used throughout the culinary world.
So, we’ve mashed them, bashed them, smushed them and mushed them to become 12 ways for using almonds you can eat. From using the bitter almond to create oil that goes into our liqueur to pulverising the seed into a meal.
The meal, for one, has a number of uses in its own right; from being famously used within the French macaron recipe to becoming the baseline flour mixture for any vegan twist in the traditional bakery.
So, alongside the almond meal, here’s 12 ways we’ve (so far) managed to change the almond variety form:
- Green (In the Hull)
- Meal (A.K.A. Flour)
- Whole (Blanched)
- Whole (Natural)
What Can You Do with Almonds You Can Eat?
Here’s a fun part. Almonds are great for pretty much anything and everything (as long as you’ve not got an almond or tree nut allergy, of course).
You can actually eat raw almonds whole, if you like or blanched (which takes away the crispy outer shell to reveal a softer cream almond nut). As well as this, you could slice for your muesli, roast for Christmastime or bake as a part of a famous recipe like the Spanish almond cream cake.
As long as you’ve got sweet almonds, there’s no stopping you in your drinking, cooking, baking and making adventures with the various types of almonds. In fact, one of our favourite ways to eat raw sweet types of almonds is in Italian biscotti.
They’re simple cookies of double-baked goodness. Our favourite is the plain Italian style featuring two sugars and almond slithers that melt on your tongue with a crunch. In fact, they’re often brought-in by a colleague for us to dip in our coffees at the office. Although, they aren’t around for long.
Of course, there are so many other ways to enjoy the almonds you can eat, too. Here’s a list you can tick off one-by-one as you experiment with new nutty foods at home or away:
- Italian Biscotti
- French Macarons
- Spanish Almond Cream Cake
- French Almond Tart
- Greek Almond Kataifi
- Scandinavian Streusel Cake
- Chinese Almond Tofu
- Spanish Saint’s Bones
- English Bakewell Tart
- French Opera Cake
- Italian Amaretti
- Lebanese Almond Sfouf
- Dutch Almond-Paste Log Banketstaaf
- Moroccan Almond Baklava
- Chinese Almond Float
- Polish Almond Strudel
- American Almond Joys
- Jewish Almond Mandel Bread
- Spanish Almendrados
- Italian Marzipan Fondant
Can Almonds and Health Benefits be Linked?
Almonds and health benefits are definitely and interlinking thing when it comes to the safe consumption of sweet almonds.
In fact, they’re a highly recommended snack by governing health bodies such as in the UK, the US and beyond. They say a handful a day keeps the cholesterol and heart disease away. Which is a pretty good argument to begin a dietary side-step into the wonderful world of almonds.
However, that’s not the only reason the types of almonds can be a healthy option for you and anyone else wanting a taste of the different almonds around the world.
For a little insight into the nutritional values of almonds, we’ll take a look at just one handful (which is equivalent to about an ounce or 23 almond variety seeds).
In that one handful you’ve got there, you’re snacking away at 6g of protein, 4g of fibre, 6g of carbohydrates, 1.5g water, 14g mono-unsaturated fats (the ones that are good for your heart) and a whole lot more. Including calcium, potassium, riboflavin, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B-complex, iron, zinc, phosphorous and a few other hard-to-say minerals.
To go a little more in detail, the types of almonds you can eat can keep you satiated for longer because of the protein and fibre levels. As well as this, magnesium naturally keeps cholesterol levels down, vitamin E helps keep cell membranes strong (to fight diseases such as Alzheimer’s) and the many antioxidants work to reduce inflammation.
So, in reality, almonds and health benefits do truly go hand-in-hand to keep the mind and body strong.
How Are the Types of Almonds a Sustainable Farming Method?
Almonds aren’t just great for our tastebuds, our minds and our bodies, cultivating almond trees is actually good for our planet, too. In a back-road kind of way.
Almond cultivation came under the media’s eye around five years ago due to a drought in California. The reason almonds were such a topic of conversation is due to the sheer amount of water needed for the types of almonds to grow.
However, what the media didn’t relay was that – per gallon of milk produced – cows require far more water. So, changing to a milk substitute, like the all-popular almond variety, will help to reduce droughts in the future.
As well as this, since coming under fire, almond tree cultivators throughout California and the rest of the world (such as farms in Australia and Spain) have all made changes to the way they farm. For example:
- There is a bigger focus on soil enrichment,
- There is a bigger focus on bee sustainability,
- There is a bigger focus on irrigation guidelines,
- There is a bigger focus on using solar energy,
- There is a bigger focus on minimising dust production,
- And there is a bigger focus on the use of waste biomass.
What Are the 11 Different Types of Almonds?
While there are two key types of almonds you should know the difference between (sweet and bitter), there are a few more almond varieties from new cultivation methods to create different almonds around the world.
So, we’re bringing 11 types of almonds you can easily find. However, you might have to look high and low on the online market for each type rather than heading for the local shop!
First on the list is the Aldrich almond which comes from certain farms in California.
These types of almonds – unsurprisingly – come from the Aldrich tree. And, after harvesting in late September or Early October, their hull opens to reveal a medium-sized and plump almond with a very hard shell.
Despite being cultivated in California, these almonds you can eat have a European style to them. They feature a rich and aromatic almond with a robust taste (making them perfect for recipes such as Italian biscotti where double baking can reduce the taste).
However, one thing to think about would be the cost. These small nuts can be considered one of the more expensive types of almond out there!
Taking a harvest time just one week after the Aldrich, these types of almond are on the smaller scale. With that, they’re often mistaken and discarded for being the bitter almond. But fear not, the Butte almond doesn’t have the same cyanide levels to make you sick.
Instead, you can look out for the dark colour in the shell and the slightly more rotund look.
It turns out that these types of almond are actually one of the hardiest and easiest to cultivate. They have high rates of fruit production (inside of which is the almond seed) as well as being easy to shake down.
One little interesting nugget of information, however, is that the Butte tree requires pollination from the Padre or the Mission to be able to thrive!
The California almond is actually an umbrella term for all other types of almonds cultivated specifically within the Californian regions such as the Central San Joaquin Valley.
Some of which, have the attributes of being considered deep, nutty, chocolaty, fruity, earthy, woody and toasty. I.e., a little bit of everything good about an almond. However, these can vary depending on the crop and its age.
A field of California almond trees can cultivate perennially for 25 years but will only begin producing almonds you can eat after 3 cycles. So, it makes sense that with each cycle, the almond can vary and give a slightly different undertone, taste and texture.
Carmel types of almonds actually began their life in 1966 as a subtype of the California almonds. However, their distinct variety from the others in the category meant they were better referenced as their own nut.
These differences include having a much softer shell that is easily cracked to reveal a mild and cream blanched almond that often used within kitchen industry. They are chosen simply due to the milder tastes that compliment many foods as well as their ease of processing after being blanched.
These almonds you can eat raw, in their whole form or sliced and diced. However, the team here at The Hobby Kraze suggest going at these nuts with the shell in-tact simply because the shell is what contains so many of those amazing nutrients we mentioned earlier.
Plus, with the shell being slightly softer, it makes for an easier bite on the teeth!
Best drizzled within your baking for an extra strong kick of the almonds and health benefits, these types of almonds are a very common find as a flavour and concentrate. This goes for their options within vaping fluids, too.
That said, they’re also a popular choice throughout Europe from the Australian farms for sweet salads involving toasted almond slithers and toasted coconut slithers. Of course, if you didn’t already know, toasted almond and toasted coconut are a match made in heaven.
However, one thing to note is that the Almond Board of California has found these types of almonds you can eat to be very hard-shelled with an oval-like shape, pale centre and a low cracking percentage.
This means they can stay fresh for longer without the possibility of smaller insects making a home out of your next snack.
The Fritz almond is a bit of a hybrid. This is because it is a cultivation mixture between the Californian almond and the Mission almond (which you’ll have to read on to find out more about).
These types of almonds, while ready for harvest far sooner than any other almond, have the classic almond shape with the pointed hat and rounded base. However, this almond variety has much more of a plump body than others with this standard shape.
In terms of its taste and texture, these small nuts tend to have a wrinkly body in comparison to other almond types. Otherwise, the taste is pretty unmonumental. It’s quite similar to many of the other generic types of almonds.
The Independence nut holds this name for a few reasons. For one, it is grown on the West coast of America (the land of independence). Second, it was given sole cultivation rights to one nursery called the Dave Wilson Nursery. Third, it is self-fertile!
With not harbouring anything special in terms of the look, smell, taste or feel, these types of almonds do have their very own unique trademark that sets it out from the rest of the different almonds around the world.
This is because they’re the first of their kind to be known as “self-fertile”. This means they don’t need that all-important polliniser (A.K.A. the bees we mentioned earlier) in order to spread and grow.
They were developed by cross-pollinating experts Zaiger Genetics 15 years ago and have been on the rise ever since while being on-track to become the norm in almond farming throughout California.
The mission almond tree is also known as the Texas almond tree. Characteristically, these types of almonds bloom stunningly large trees with engrossing canopies and bright pink blooms throughout the Springtime.
Then, as the Summer continues to produce the fruits, hulls and drupes of the almonds you can eat, they are harvested in the mid-Autumn period for their hard-shelled almond seeds.
Notably, these almond variety seeds have small, stout and ovular bodies with a much darker colour than most. Although it’s good to note that these types of almonds do not have cyanide and can be eaten raw, as a paste, crushed, as a flavour and more.
Native to the Middle East and Asia, these types of almonds and their trees come straight from the Iranian hub.
They feature both the sweet almond and the bitter almond seed growths, but this can depend on the way the trees were cultivated with the grafting as well as onto which roots.
This almond variety is often blanched to reveal a smooth and creamy centre easy for snacking on. In fact, they don’t really have a hard shell at all; the reason they’re so often blanched is because they have such a soft shell that makes them easy to peel and eat raw. With this, they’re typically served up in their own ramekin at the party table.
As well as this, it’s worth nothing that where there’s a Nonpareil, there’s a Pareil. And, in the case of the types of almonds, the Pareil is much harder, smaller and less suitable for as many cuisine options. Hence Nonpareil being such a popular choice.
The Padre is much like the Butte in that it derived from a Mission almond tree and can be much smaller in size as well as firmer on the hardness level. And, while this may make them easier to mistake for a bitter almond, they certainly pack a punch when it comes to the taste.
Sweeter than many, the Padre is grown in approved farming locations throughout California such as the Dave Wilson Nursery.
Due to the similarities in locational growth, cultivator parents and looks, there’s no surprise that the Padre is harvested at the same time as the Butte, maybe a few days afterwards. And it could be this time shift that gives the seed extra maturity in the sweetness.
Although, Padre almonds and health benefits that follow come from deciduous trees needing a little more time, effort and care than the rest as they require extra pruning!
Last on the list we have the Peerless almond.
These types of almonds carry a very rich aroma and flavour to them, meaning they’re pretty much good for anything from eating in your morning forest trail mix to keeping in a foraging bowl for sweet aromas
With this extra kick of flavour, they’re recommended to have as part of your morning breakfast rather than as a late-night snack. This is because they are better suited to regulating blood cholesterol levels throughout the day while you’re active rather than while you’re fast asleep.
Moving onto the cultivating characteristics, the Peerless almond variety is actually harvested in mid-to-late September, making them a middle-man for all almond harvesting timetables throughout the year.
A final factor of the Peerless is the rather large almond seeds they tend to yield. So, if you’re out and about harvesting, you know they’re certainly not the bitter almond type and you’re free to take a bite out of your sweet almond.
That concludes this introduction to everything you didn’t know you needed to know about almonds. From understanding where they come from to discovering which ones are edible and what to even do with the almonds you can eat.
Although, before we leave you to hunt the orchards and start harvesting your own almonds for your checklist of recipes to try out, there’s one last nugget of nutty information the team here at The Hobby Kraze wanted to share. If you’ve ever wondered whether almond tree nuts are safe for pets and other fluffy friends, the simple answer is no. While, like us, they might enjoy the mildly sweet tastes, their digestive systems simply can’t handle them.
So, if you have a dog or cat at home, make sure they aren’t getting their paws on your trail mix. Otherwise, you might have some lethargy, vomiting and other unwanted symptoms to contend with!
Now that’s out of the way, we just wanted to remind you to share this article if you liked it, tell us what you want to see next and don’t forget to have a look at all of our other foodie picks here at The Hobby Kraze. We’ve said it before, and we’ll certainly say it again; food is a hobby! (Right?).
P.S. if you’re a big nut fan and want to know more about which nuts you have in your mix, don’t forget to have a look at our other seeding articles like “The Foodie Guide to the Types of Nuts” and “The 22 Types of Legumes You can Find Growing in Our Planet’s Rich Soil”.