Love almonds as much as we do? Find out everything you need to know about these delicious nuts in our pantry staples guide.
Our pantry staples series sees us take a look at the ingredients that most people usually have in their presses – chickpeas, beans, noodles and the like. Today, we’re looking at almonds.
Native to Iran and Central Asian countries, almond refers to the tree the nuts (which are technically seeds) grow on, as well as the almonds themselves. Almonds were first domesticated around 5,000 years ago, before being spread along the Mediterranean and Northern Africa. More recently, almonds were brought to the United States with California now the world's largest producers, followed by the rest of America, Morocco and Iran.
The good and the bad
It seems like almonds have been going through a renaissance over the past few years, with more and more restaurants and cafés offering almond milk, almond-based desserts and other forms of almonds. The nut is well-known for its health benefits, which reportedly include reducing mortality rates in people with heart issues, stop the growth of cancerous cells and decrease the risk of Alzheimer's.
In terms of nutrition, almonds are a great source of fat, most of which is monounsaturated, as well as dietary fibre, vitamin E, riboflavin, protein and phosphorous. A portion of almonds equates to about 23 nuts, depending on the size. While 23 might seem like an odd number, this portion is enough to keep you full between meals and provide you with enough energy to get through the day.
While it might seem like almonds can do no wrong, there are some negative effects associated with the nut: As the demand for almonds has grown so exponentially, so too has the struggle to grow them. Five litres of water is required to grow a single almond, with more than 100 litres needed to produce just 100ml of almond milk, the current alternative milk du jour.
As we mentioned, California is the largest producer of almonds in the world but the region is well-known for droughts, wildfires and high temperatures, resulting in a negative impact on the environment in the area. Because the location is so dry, farmers have to drill down very deeply into the ground to provide enough irrigation for the almonds to grow, which threatens the infrastructure of the whole area.
Almonds require pollination from bees and the bee population has drastically diminished over the past number of years. This has caused almond producers to transport bees across the United States in order to have enough in the area to pollinate the crops. A similar process is used to grow avocados, which has caused vegans everywhere to question whether they're actually vegan-friendly, as the process can harm the bees.
Uses and recipes
Almonds are a great pantry staple as they can be used in a variety of different ways: toast them and use them in salads, blit them up to make almond flour for flourless pancakes or blend them till fine to make your very own almond butter. However, because almonds are so fatty, they can easily turn rancid if kept somewhere warm for too long. Store your almonds somewhere cool and dry and they should keep for about two months – toasting will help them to stay fresh for even longer.
Looking for some recipe inspiration? Read on for some of our favourite ways to use almonds.
- This Edward Hayden roulade recipe is flavoured with Baileys and uses flaked almonds to provide some extra crunch.
- These lemon and honey bars use ground almonds instead of flour so that they're gluten-free, so they're perfect to have on hand if you have coeliac guests visiting.
- Almonds aren't just for sweet dishes! Try this ray dish from Elaine Murphy of The Legal Eagle to use almonds in a different way.
- Gill Meller's blood orange, rhubarb and almond recipe is perfect for desserts, breakfast or whenever you feel like treating yourself to a delicious snack.