Almond trees (Prunus dulcis) are a fruit tree that belong to the rose family (Rosaceae). They are closely related to the peach tree. The trees originated in the Middle East. Today there are more than a dozen cultivars grown throughout the world.
The almond tree is widely mentioned throughout the Bible. The almond was commonly used by ancient Egyptians in the production of bread. The Romans believed that the almond was a fertility charm that they commonly bestowed upon newlyweds as a wedding gift to encourage the birth of children. In the mid 1700s, Franciscan clergy brought the almond tree to California.
California Almond Production
California is the largest almond producer in the world, with 80 percent of the worldwide supply.The state produces 90 percent of all almonds grown in the United States, according to the Almond Board of California. There are 6,000 almond growers in the state. In the central valley of California, more than 530,000 acres grow strictly almond trees
Almond trees grow 8 to 10 feet in height with a spread that averages 10 to 15 feet. Each spring the trees are covered in fragrant white or pink blossoms. The tree requires cross-pollination for nut production. Most almond orchards utilize large hives of honeybees set among the trees to encourage pollination.
Almond trees require deep, fertile, well-draining soil to thrive. Fumigation of the soil to destroy 99 percent of nematodes is essential to the almond tree establishing a strong root system over the first two years of growth, according to the University of California Cooperative Extension. The trees should be planted in January or February.
The entire almond and hull are referred to as a drupe. Before harvest, the outer hull will dry out and completely split. The almond nut encased in the shell is located within the split hull. Trees must attain an age of 3 to 4 years before fruiting will take place. Maximum nut production does not occur until the tree is 6 to 10 years old. The nuts provide an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium. Consuming 23 almonds is the same as drinking a quarter cup of milk for calcium intake, according to the Almond Board of California.