All About Almonds

I’ve never really thought about almonds. Oh sure, they’re a tasty nut, good as a snack or in baked goods. They come in a variety of forms; whole, blanched, sliced, slivered, ground and even milk. They can be eaten out of hand, added to pastries or to savoury dishes. But last week I attended an event that was all about the wonders of the California almond.

Presented by the California Almond board, the afternoon consisted of an information session on the California Almond industry. Since almonds aren’t grown anywhere else in North America, the nuts are an important part of California’s agriculture. We received a brief overview of the industry there and how the nuts are processed – who knew that the nuts were harvested by machinery designed to shake the almond tree so all the nuts fall to the ground?

Almonds are also a nutritional powerhouse. Local dietitian Jean LaMantia explained to the assembled guests that almonds are high in fibre and protein, and low in saturated fat. They are the most nutrient-dense nut. An ounce of almonds have the same amount of antioxidants as a cup of green tea or half a cup of cooked broccoli.

We also got to watch a demo and then sample treats created by pastry chef Joanne Yolles of Pangaea Restaurant. Yolles created an almond cake with honey almond clusters, almond meringue with cranberry semifreddo and almond tuile or snap cookies.

Guests also got to sample that famous almond cookie, the maracon, as well as almond biscotti. Goodie bags included almonds in various forms for baking, as well as a little purse-sized tin designed to hold an ounce of almonds (for those necessary snacks), and a cookbook from the Almond Board of California full of great recipes that all feature almonds.

I love the little tin since I have wacky blood sugar and often find myself in need of a high-protein snack at the worst times. And trail mix in a ziplock baggie has a habit of exploding in the bottom of my purse. I’m excited about baking macarons for the first time (for some reason I always thought these were really difficult to make), and in trying out some of the recipes in the cookbook.