Almond is every cook’s first choice when it comes to choosing nuts for their culinary venture. Whether used in savoury or sweet dish, almonds turn it into a stunner and its subtle nutty flavour with a buttery undertone will never disappoint you. These prunes belong to the same family as apricots and peaches and are the seeds of shrub-like almond trees.
The almond tree, from where we get these amazing nuts, blooms during the springtime and become ready to be harvested for the nuts by autumn. Though native to south Asia and the Middle East; a well drained, nutrient-rich soil, suitable climate, apt planning, proper care as well as perseverance can help you cultivate almond trees in your own region. While picking almond trees, you might come across two varieties – sweet and bitter. The short and broad seeds from Prunus dulcis var. amara taste bitter to your bitter taste buds and are considered deadly at times due to high content of cyanide in it. In contrast, the sweet almonds from Prunus dulcis var. dulcis are relished worldwide for its mild flavours and find uses with both culinary as well as medicinal fields.
The almonds have ruled the world since ancient times and are believed to have its roots in China. They were domesticated during 3000-200 BC and travelled across the world to Greece, Middle East and southern Europe. The Spaniards introduced these nuts to California during mid of 17th century and the latter gradually evolved into one of the largest producer of almonds in recent times. Almonds have secured a venerable position in cultures of different countries. It made its place in the tomb of Tutankhamun, a celebrated Egyptian pharaoh as well as in the Bible. Almonds symbolise promise and vigilance to the Christians while in China they represent feminine beauty. Every guest in an Italian wedding is gifted with sugar-coated almonds as a sign of salubrity (favourable to the preservation of good health), romance and good fortune.
Almonds make a delectable nibble and taste equally riveting whether savoured raw or toasted. Almonds and its derivatives make an integral part of your kitchen. If you are looking for gluten-free flour for your breads and desserts, almond flour is the one for you. Apart from that, butter, oil and milk, derived from almonds are also used in cooking throughout the world.
Apart from making your dish taste better, almonds also enrich your body with its treasure house of nutrients. They are filled with carbohydrates, dietary fibres, vitamins and essential minerals like magnesium and potassium. The best part of almonds is that it contains mono-saturated fat which facilitates in toning down ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in the body and thus keeping our heart healthy.
In fact a Loma Linda School of Public Health study showed those who consumed nuts five times a week had a 50% reduction in risk of heart attack.â‚
The magnesium in almonds further accelerates the process of lowering the risk of heart disease by allowing free flow of blood through the blood vessels with minimal resistance. The potassium joins with the magnesium to take care of our cardiovascular health and also maintain proper functioning of the nervous system and muscle contractions. If you are looking forward to losing weight, keep almonds handy and pop them into your mouth whenever you feel an urge to eat. It delivers a sense of satiety, prevents you from gorging on large amount of food to satisfy your hunger and thus helps you maintain a lean, well toned body with minimum fat. Almonds are also considered to be ideal for diabetic patients owing to its ability to lower the surge of blood sugar after meals. Its antioxidants clean out the free radicals in our body and helps save us from the perils of cancer.
To get more almonds in your diet, you might try drinking them. All natural almond milk is a dairy alternative that's high in protein, fortified with vitamins A, D and E, a good source of calcium and 100% lactose and cholesterol free. Found in health food stores, it can be used for cooking and lactose intolerance, and it's lower in calories than other non-dairy drinks.
So indulge in the delicious flavour of almonds while they treat your body with all its goodness and enrich you with a sense of well being. Liya Das (TCC)