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Almond

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ALMOND, the fruit of the almond tree (Prunus Amygdalus), which belongs to the plum tribe (Pruneae) of the rose family (Rosaceae). It used to be placed in a separate genus Amygdalus, the distinction lying in the fruit, the soft pulp attached to the stone in the plum being replaced by a leathery separable coat in the almond. The tree appears to be a native of western Asia, Bar bary and Morocco; but it has been extensively distributed over the warm-temperate region of the Old World. It ripens its fruit in the south of England. It is a tree of moderate size; the leaves are lanceolate, and serrated at the edges; and it flowers early in spring. The fruit is a drupe, having a downy outer coat, called the epicarp, which encloses the reticulated hard stony shell or endocarp. The seed is the kernel which is contained within these coverings. The shell-almonds of trade consist of the endocarps enclosing the seeds. The tree grows in Syria and Palestine; and is referred to in the Bible under the name of Shaked, meaning "hasten." The word Luz, which occurs in Genesis xxx. 37, and which has been trans lated hazel, is supposed to be another name for the almond. In Palestine the tree flowers in January, and this hastening of the period of flowering seems to be alluded to in Jeremiah i. II, 12, where the Lord asks the prophet, "What seest thou?" and he re plies, "The rod of an almond-tree"; and the Lord says, "Thou bast well seen, for I will hasten my word to perform it." The ap plication of Snaked or hasten to the almond is like the use of "May" for the ,hawthorn, which usually flowers in that month in Britain. The rod of Aaron, mentioned in Numbers xvii, was taken from an almond-tree; and the Jews still carry rods of almond blossom to the synagogues on great festival days. The fruit of the almond supplied a model for certain kinds of ornamental carved work (Exodus xxv. 33, 34; xxxvii. 19, 2o).

There are two forms of the plant, the one (with pink flowers) producing sweet, the other (with white flowers) bitter almonds. The kernel of the former contains a fixed oil and emulsin. It is used internally in medicine, and must not be adulterated with the bitter almond.

The bitter almond is rather broader and shorter than the sweet almond and has a bitter taste. It contains about 5o% of the fixed oil which also occurs in sweet almonds. It also contains a ferment emulsin which, in the presence of water, acts on a soluble gluco side, amygdalin, yielding glucose, prussic acid and the essential oil of bitter almonds or benzaldehyde (q.v.), which is not used in medicine. Bitter almonds may yield from 6 to 8% of prussic acid.

Cultivation of sweet almonds has been established in climatically suitable districts in the United States, chiefly on the Pacific coast. In California, which grows practically the entire U.S. output, the 1927-38 average annual production was about 12,000 tons.

Recipes.—Below are given certain commonly needed almond recipes:— Almond Cake.—A standard recipe for this is: Beat 6 oz. of warmed castor sugar into four eggs until the mixture is the thick ness of cream. Add 3 oz. melted butter, mix in oz. pounded almonds (bitter), 1 lb. sifted flour, and essence of lemon to taste. Place the mixture in greased mould and bake hours in a steady oven. Beware of burning.

Almond Paste.—A standard recipe for this is : Bring to the boil 6 oz. of loaf sugar with a teaspoonful of lemon juice ; skim and boil to 23 7 ° F. Pour the syrup on to 4 oz. ground almonds, mix in the white of half an egg and use as required. The tradi tional cook's method of ascertaining when the sugar has reached the proper temperature is called small balls, because the sugar, when a portion is removed by the forefinger into cold water, can be rolled into a small ball.

Almonds, Salted.—To salt blanched almonds, fry them till brown in olive oil, drain and roll or toss them in a mixture of celery salt (iths) and cayenne pepper (8th).

almonds, bitter, fruit, tree and oz