Among a wide variety of nuts, almond perhaps is one of the most famous. In the present time, almonds (Prunus dulcis, syn. Prunus amygdalus) are cultivated in many parts of the world, but the tree is a native to Iran and surrounding countries.
The seed of the fruit of the tree is also called almond. In the subgenus Amygdalus, it is classified with the peach, within the genus Prunus, the corrugations on the shell surrounding the seed make it distinct from the other subgenera.
Almonds either fall into one of two categories: sweet or bitter. You can munch a handful of sweet almonds, whether it’s raw or toasted. You can crumble and sprinkle it atop your desserts and other dishes.
On the other hand, bitter almonds almost have the same appearance as the sweet ones, but just a bit smaller and have pointier ends, and they grow on trees. Its strong scent makes it a good ingredient for soaps, shampoos, lotions, and perfumes.
Initially, bitter almonds are only grown in Asia and the Middle East but now are also grown in some US regions. The trees are a preferred ornamental element in landscaping. The nuts of bitter almonds are not salable as it cannot be eaten due to its taste, and it has a considerable saturated fat content.
The bitter taste is due to the compound called Amygdalin. It is contained in the nut, and it functions as a defense mechanism of the plant to being eaten in the wild. When exposed to moisture, Amygdalin divides into two parts: an intense almond flavor, edible, and hydrocyanic acid that makes the nuts deadly.
Besides being a popular nut, almond is highly nutritious and rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Growing almonds is very challenging as they are fussy about their environment. The trees require dry and hot conditions, which means they enjoy long hot summer and dry, sunny weather. However, they also need a certain amount of cold (around 200-400 hours per year at temperatures less than 45°F/7°C) to break their buds’ dormancy.
They cannot withstand frosting and wet soils.
Almonds can be planted in any type of soil, but they love well-draining soil. Although they can tolerate acidic, neutral, and alkaline pH levels, they will grow best in soil with around 6.5 pH level.
Provide at least 5 feet of topsoil. You can mound the soil to create the proper depth before digging a planting hole until several compost inches into the ground. The planting hole should be deep and twice as wide as the roots.
Almonds can be propagated by budding, grafting, and nuts.
Propagation through budding. Collect dormant wood in winter and store until Spring. T-budding is done in Spring by joining a bud from one variety to the rootstock of another. Make sure to choose a parent almond with desirable characteristics and grows to produce a new tree.
Propagation by grafting is done by taking a cutting from trees during dormancy, and they are grafted to a rootstock that is suitable in the Spring.
Propagation through nuts. You must know that growing almonds from seeds will take much longer than any other way. And there is no guarantee that any nuts produced may not be of the same quality as that of the parent plants.
Find fresh nuts. Soak them for around 48 hours, place them on a wet paper towel, put in a plastic bag, and then place them in the refrigerator.
The almonds should start sprouting after 3-4 weeks, and they’re ready to pot in a well-drained soil mix. Place the plants under direct sunlight.
When they reach 6 inches tall, you can transfer them to bigger pots. Make sure to keep them moist, but never soggy.
Pruning is very crucial for almond’s future shape, productivity, and the quality of the nuts produced. Proper pruning ensures quality and excellent yield.
The “vase” type shape is the typical pruning shape for almonds. It is done into a “vase” type shape with 3-4 main branches, to allow ease of harvesting. The excellent application of the “vase” shape makes the tree more vigorous, more productive and guarantees a longer lifespan.
Pruning after maturity focuses more on maintaining the shape established in the early stages of the tree’s life. About 20% of an older tree’s canopy should be pruned to grow new branches and stimulate more production every year.