Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Victorious Almondo!

Long suffering followers of these annals may recall that last year, on the brink of their first ever major almondification, my two almond trees were devastated by a tribe of brigands. This time round, thanks to a combination of my mother's generosity and my own spendthriftery, I secured a set of A-grade fancy-pants bird-exclusion nets for trees, which have done time on various stone-fruits as various stone-fruits approach peak parrot-attractiveness. And therefore, despite a few days of this –

– we are verily with almonds! Yes indeedio, the unprecedented joy of an almond glut (not that almond + glut makes any kind of sense).

Prunus dulcis "Nonpareil". Barely visible fossilised ammonite for scale (my pleasure).

Only the nuts on the Nonpareil almond are ripe; its friend, the Carmel, is biding its time, which means that what you see in the basket above is a mere half of our first proper almond harvest (insh'allah). The Nonpareil gets the full force of the Western sun, whereas the Carmel catches a patch of afternoon shadow, and it's to this that I attribute the variation in ripening time, although I do note, having consulted the University of California's pamphlet on "Harvesting and Storing Your Home Orchard's Nut Crop" (essential reading, a tour de force), that "depending on variety, almonds are ready for harvest between early August [that would be early February to me] to late September [i.e., March]". So it may be that all Carmels will prove slower than all Nonpareils.

Never having had much to do with almond harvesting before (thanks, cockies), I'm relying fairly heavily on the good almond commentators at the U of California. They advise that harvest "should begin when 95% of the nuts have hulls that have split open to expose the in-shell almond inside", although they also say that you can proceed when only 75% have split, to save your almonds from North American equivalents to the cockatoo, though frankly I don't think that would work with the cockatoos round here.

After harvest, I'm supposed to remove the hulls while watching Barnaby Joyce on last night's recording of Q and A. Gosh he's a weirdo.

And then the nuts in their shells need additional drying to prevent mold. In the midst of this drying process, which I have trusted to my Fowlers' Vacola Dehydrator, I'm meant to unshell a nut periodically and check whether it's dry and brittle. Once they are - dry and brittle - they're good for 8 months at room temperature, and longer if frozen. So, tra la!, almonds!


  1. So when will your fans be treated to your own, no doubt patented, sugared almonds?? Or Vienna Almonds? Want.

  2. Ha ha! Still working on my sugar-cane growing technique, but as soon as that's mastered there'll be Vienna almonds for all.

  3. I am sure you could manage beet sugar in the interim. Am waiting quite eagerly, Baron.

  4. Oh. Good point about sugarbeets. That somewhat ruins my stalling technique.

  5. Fresh almonds lasting eight months? Queue hysterical laughter.

  6. Nice work nets! Though I do give the cockatoo points for effort.
    Enjoy your almond glut. I'd be interested to hear how long they needed in the dehydrator.

  7. Of course you're right, EC. I'm predicting toasted almonds on porridge, toasted almonds on chickpea surprise, gateau de almond, almond & blackberry crumble, any combination of Kate's sergestions, and then, all of a sudden and far too soon, "where did all the almonds go?"

  8. Thanks, Bek! The cockatoo's persistence is pretty darn impressive.

    So, I've been doing the nuts at the 35ºC-41ºC setting (because, as the dehydrator booklet helpfully points out, nuts & seeds with high oil content tend to go rancid if dried at hotter temperatures). I suspect there'll be a bit of variation in time depending on how dry the nut was to start with. I did them for 2 hours last night, then turned off the dehydrator when I went to bed; doing another couple of hours this morning, then I'll leave for work. Will comment back here when they're done.

  9. Update: it took about 8 hours at around 35ºC to dry out the shells. The nuts inside the shells at this point are just brittle, but still far less brittle than a roasted almond is.