Firsts on a homestead are always exciting. This year's first was our first real almond harvest.
|1st sampling of homegrown almonds|
We planted an All-In-One almond tree in December 2009. It's given us beautiful blooms for a number of years now.
|It blooms in March (when this photo was taken)|
Hall's Almond trees are more commonly planted, but the All-In-One was described as soft shelled and heat tolerant. Heat tolerant is always a plus in my part of the country. Considering how hot and dry our summer was, I'd say it has performed as advertised.
Of almonds, it's only given us a handful or so in the past, but this year I picked up a bucketful.
Since this was a first harvest I had to look up the particulars of harvesting, processing, and storage. My The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food says to harvest when the hulls are splitting on the nuts growing on the inner branches of the tree. These are the last to ripen, so it serves as an indicator of when they're ready. Mine were falling to the ground, some with split hulls and some with intact hulls.
The book said to remove the hulls immediately. This is so the nutmeat can dry properly. I hulled the ones I could, but many of the hulls were too hard to remove. I spread them out on an old sheet under one of the pecan trees, wondering if the hulls would split as the nuts dried. They did not. I reckoned this because we had a wet muddy winter followed by a hot dry summer; the harvest wasn't being textbook.
Then last weekend Hurricane Matthew gave us a gift of a quarter-inch of rain. Not as much as we needed, but enough to soften many of the hulls so that I could remove them.
I spread them out to dry, but not until we sampled a few.
The shells seem hard compared to pecans, but my nut cracker split them right open. The driest ones were easiest to crack.
According to UC Davis almonds can be stored in the shell for eight months at room temperature (which they say is 68°F / 20.0°C, and to which I say, “Ha ha, try room temperature during one of my summers“), and for a year or more in the fridge. Shelled almonds can be frozen and retain good quality for over a year.
It will take awhile to crack all of them so I'm not sure how many we'll end up with, but I guarantee every one will go to good use.