Nuts – (nuez) nueces
We could not cover the subject of Nuts without looking at the Almond (almendra) as so many trees are grown and harvested in the area and Spain has one of the most diverse commercial cultivars of almonds.
The Almond, a deciduous tree, is native to the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent and North Africa. The flowers are white to pale pink and appear before the leaves in early spring.
The fruit of the Almond is a drupe, consisting of an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed, which is not a true nut, inside. The Almonds are harvested in the autumn using various methods. The long established, very labour-intensive, method of spreading nets around the tree and hitting the nuts with long bamboo poles to knock them off the tree onto the nets is still popular, but the more expensive method of using a tree shaker attached to a tractor is becoming a more common sight.
Shelling Almonds refers to removing the shell to reveal the seed which are sold shelled or unshelled. Blanched Almonds are shelled almonds that have been treated with hot water to soften the seed coat, which is then removed to reveal the white nut.
While the Almond is often eaten on its own, raw or toasted, it is also a component of various dishes. They are available in many forms, such as whole, sliced (flaked, slivered), and as flour. Almonds yield Almond Oil and can also be made into Almond Butter or Almond Milk. These products can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Almonds can also be sprinkled over breakfasts and desserts and are the main ingredient in marzipan and can be found in nougat, many pastries, biscuits such as macaroons and cakes sweets and desserts.
Almonds can be processed into a milk substitute called almond milk. Raw, blanched and lightly toasted Almonds work well for different production techniques, some of which are similar to that of soymilk and some of which use no heat, resulting in ‘raw milk’
Almond Flour and Skins
Almond Flour is often used as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour in cooking and baking. The phenolic compounds found in Almond Skins are of prebiotic dietary fibre and have commercial interest as food additives or dietary supplements.
Historically, Almond Syrup was an emulsion of sweet and bitter Almonds, usually made with barley syrup or in a syrup of orange flower water and sugar, often flavoured with a synthetic aroma of almonds. Due to the cyanide found in bitter Almonds, modern syrups generally are produced only from sweet Almonds
Almonds are a nutritionally dense food rich in the B vitamins riboflavin, thiamine, B6, folate and niacin, vitamin E and the essential minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. They also have cholesterol-lowering properties, but may cause allergies or intolerance.