February 16th Is National Almond Day

February 16, 2012 is National Almond Day across the U.S.A.; the day to celebrate the tasty almond.

According to the Almond Board of California, eating an ounce of almonds each day is good for the health of your heart, and can help maintain a proper cholesterol level. A single serving of almonds, about 23 of them, contains only 1 gram of saturated fat and 13 grams of good-for-your-heart unsaturated fat. A serving of almonds a day will also help you get 35% of the Daily Value of Vitamin E. In addition, almonds contain calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, and protein.

That’s a lot of good stuff for such a tiny nut!

In an effort to easily help you consume a proper daily serving of almonds, The Almond Board of California has created a page on their website with a picture that visualizes a variety of ways for you get your ounce a day.

Use a baby food jar, a shot glass, a quarter-cup measuring cup, or even an ice cream scoop. The surface area of a 3”x3” post-it notes works too! Check it out…

almond serving size

Or you can purchase a little tin from the Almond Board of California for less than two dollars and keep it in your purse. Get your tin at www.gohands.com/almondsarein/estore/index.cfm

Fun Facts About Almonds:

– Although almonds are native to the Middle East, about 80% of the world’s supply now comes from California. Over 550,000 acres of almonds cover the state, requiring more than 1.2 million beehives to pollinate them all!

– Chocolate manufactures use about 40% of the world’s almond supply.

– Almonds are used to make a variety of products including almond butter, almond oil, and marzipan.

– There is a marzipan museum in Szabo, Hungary which features, among other things, a life-sized statue of Michael Jackson made completely of marzipan.

– In Sweden, people believe that finding an almond hidden in rice pudding is a sign of good luck, and that the person who finds the almond will be married in the coming year.

– Ancient Romans thought of the almond as a symbol of fertility and showered newlyweds with them.

So how does an almond get from the orchard to the store?

In autumn time, almond trees begin to develop flower parts on the edges of the growing bud. By the middle of December pollen grains are present and the tiny buds remain dormant until early January when they start their rapid growth.

The warming of temperatures in January and February is what entices the first almond tree blossoms to transform from their buds. Beginning in February, almond orchards should have mild temperatures (55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit), be frost-free, and exposed to minimal rain so the blossoms can grow and flourish properly.

Because an almond tree is not self-pollinating, an orchard needs at least two different varieties of trees so the bees and can do their thing and the orchard can be a productive one.

Once the petals have dropped and the trees have leafed out, the beginning signs of fuzzy gray-green “fruit” make their appearance. The hull hardens and matures until about July, when it starts to split open. Between the months of mid-August and late October, the split widens which exposes what will be the almond’s shell, allowing the nut the dry. Soon the whole nut and the stem fully separate and shortly before harvest the hull opens completely.

In California, growing and sanitary standards are incredibly strict so state of the art technology is used both in the field and in the processing plant to ensure the highest quality almonds.

To prepare almond orchards for harvest, the orchard floors are swept and cleared before mechanical tree “shakers” come through and knock unshelled nuts off the trees onto the ground. There, they are allowed to dry before being swept into rows and gathered by machines. Once collected they are taken to carts and towed to the huller.

During processing at the almond processing plant, a random sample of almond shells are cracked open so that the nuts inside can be graded according to quality and size. A proper almond inspection makes sure the nuts are well-dried, whole, clean, and virtually free of insects, decay, foreign matter, rancidity, mold, and any other sort of blemish or breakage. The almonds are then processed and packaged according to assortment specifications of sizes and shapes.

If stored properly with low humidity at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, almonds have a shelf life of up to three years.

national almond day january 16
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