Prunus amygdalus Batsch

The almond is a deciduous tree that grows to be over five metres tall and is capable of reaching ten metres if provided with sufficient water and fertilizers. It has white or pink five-petal flowers that grow singly or in clusters and appear before the leaves. The fruit is a stony drupe. The almond essentially depends on cross-pollination. In California, one million beehives are brought every February to pollinate the almond orchards to ensure adequate production.

Almonds grow best in cold, humid winters (below 7.2 ° C to break dormancy), and dry, hot summers (between 15 to 30° C).

Almonds are native to the Mediterranean basin and southern Asia. In Palestine, the almond is an important fruit tree. There are many types of almond, divided by farmers into two classes: the sweet (soft-shelled and hard-shelled), and the bitter, which is widely used as rootstock. One of the best types of almond cultivated in Palestine is called im al-fahem, which is widespread in the Jenin region, especially in the village of ‘Aqaaba.

Like other nuts, almonds are rich in antioxidants and fibre. Almonds are widely believed to prevent heart disease by regulating cholesterol levels and blood pressure. They also aid in limiting some ageing problems while strengthening the immune system.

Green almond fruit can be consumed before hardening, either fresh, or after cooking or pickling. The dried fruit has a wide variety of uses in cuisine, nut mixtures, desserts and juices. Further, almond wood is hard, so it is used for making walking canes.

Palestinian folklore associates the almond with its early blossoms, as it is the first tree to blossom in winter: ‘you crazy almond tree, in the dead of winter, you flower with glee.’ Because some types of almond are more bitter than wild lupine, there is a proverb that says: ‘It’s like telling your poor kids that lupine is sweeter than almonds; you’re making fools out of them!’  There is also a riddle playing on the number 7 that goes: ‘Seven sticks of almond wood that leave branches strewn and reach Egypt before late afternoon.’*

* According to the translator’s research, the riddle is meant to be about lightning. See Mu’jam al-Amthal al-Falastiniyya, ed. Husayn al-Lubani. Beirut: Maktabat Lubnan Nashirun, 1999.


Source: A Garden Among the Hills: The Floral Heritage of Palestine. © The Palestinian Museum 2019