Almonds are estimated to have first been cultivated circa 4,000 BCE. Brought to Spain by the Moors, almonds arrived in the New World from Spain at the beginning of the 18th Century. Fransciscan priests establishing missions planted almond trees along the Mission Route known as El Camino Real (“The Royal Road.”) In the interim, almonds were one of the hottest properties shipped along the ancient Silk Road, arriving in North Africa, Asia, and the wider Mediterranean basin by that storied trade route. Today, almonds are prized internationally. Let’s visit them to find out more about almonds in international cuisines and cultures.
Almonds in The Mediterranean
The Mediterranean region is home to cultures that place special emphasis on the role of almonds in their culinary traditions. The world-renowned Mediterranean Diet is characterized by its abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil, and nuts, with less focus on proteins in the diet. Almonds are an important feature of this traditional Mediterranean way of eating.
Italians celebrate important landmark life events with almonds. Sugared (Jordan) almonds are given to guests at parties celebrating marriages, engagements, anniversaries, and births, called “Bomboniere”. In ancient Rome, almonds were given as gifts to prominent citizens and used as fertility talismans.
Almonds in Asia
In South Asia, daily consumption of almonds is recommended to expectant mothers. Indian children are also recommended a daily intake for better brain function as it’s believed they’ll excel at school with the support of almonds. During Diwali (the Hindu Festival of Lights), almonds are routinely given as gifts. It’s clear that India loves almonds, with national consumption at 167 thousand metric tons in 2020 alone!
Chinese New Year brings almonds to the forefront of the national kitchen, with the traditional Chinese almond cookie. Chinese food traditionally bears symbolism and the almond cookie is no exception, representing prosperity and the hope of good luck in the new year. The cookies’ round shape and golden color recall coins.
Almonds in Northern Europe
The Danes have embraced almonds in many ways, but Risalamande (rice pudding with almonds) is probably the most famed example. This rice pudding, made with almonds and heavy cream, is topped with a sweet cherry sauce. Risalamande is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve, and whoever finds the whole almond hidden in the pudding gets a prize!
While the Germans can claim dense, rich marzipan icing as their crowning almond culinary legacy, the French have Gallette des Rois (King Tart). Baked to celebrate the Feast of Epiphany (when the Three Kings came from the East) on January 6, this creamed-filled pastry contains an icon, making the one who finds it King for a day!
Almonds in the USA
February 16 is National Almond day!
The tradition of King Cookies later jumped the Atlantic, showing up in New Orleans, LA as King Cake. Decorated in purple, gold, and green frosting, many continue to bake their King Cakes with almond filling after the French tradition.
But in New Orleans, there are numerous versions of this beloved treat, some with the traditional flaky pastry of France. As in France, the finder of the cake’s concealed icon (the baby, in this case) is King for a day.
Celebrate With Almonds in International Cuisines
As well as being present for celebrations all over the world, organic almonds also have tremendous health benefits. Helping you maintain your weight, almonds will also strengthen bones and teeth, and lower your cholesterol.
So while you’re thinking about almonds, think about what they can do for your wellness. Eating up to 20 almonds every day increases the calcium available to bones and teeth, also offering your body an abundance of antioxidants, Riboflavin, Vitamin E, and fiber. Beyond the Jordan almonds, cookies, and cakes, almonds offer so much more. Celebrate and enjoy almonds in international cuisines and cultures and reap the benefits!
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