Almond harvest starts in late August and lasts until late September. It is a fun and interesting process as it is performed with a variety of machines. The first machine used in the harvesting process is the Shaker, also known as the Knocker. This machine drives right up to the stump of the tree, squeezes the stump with large rubber pillows, and shakes the tree until the nuts come flying off the trees, to the ground.
After the almonds are shook to the ground they sit for about 2 or 3 days to dry out in the sun. Then a Sweeper, also known as a Windrower, rakes the nuts into long rows in between the trees.
The reason nuts are raked to the middle is so the Harvester, also known as the Pick-Up-Machine, can drive over the top of them and pick them up. The harvester separates the nuts from the leaves and dirt, and puts them into a cart that is pulled behind.
The shuttle cart is dumped onto a conveyor that loads the nuts into trucks. The trucks then take the almonds to a huller facility where the hulls are removed from the shells and the shells are removed from the nuts, leaving nothing but the meat of the almond. The shells can then be used in bedding for cattle and the hulls are mixed into cattle feed for nutrients. And that is how an almond comes to be ready to eat!
We eat a lot of almonds in our house. Did you know that almonds are related to peaches? They are naturally gluten free and are a great source of protein. At the local bulk food warehouse, a 40 ounce container of dry roasted almonds with sea salt, only 95 mg of sodium, is $9. In fact for ¼ cup of almonds (one serving), there are 170 calories, 15 grams of fat, but only 1 gram of saturated fat and no trans-fats, 6 grams of fiber and only 5 grams of carbohydrates. One serving provides 8% of the daily recommended allowance of Calcium and 6% of Iron. It also provides 35% of your daily recommended allowance of Vitamin E and 20% magnesium and has 3 grams of fiber.
Not only can you eat almonds plain, they also make a great ingredient in homemade trail mixes, or in baked goods. Because of its low carbohydrate content, almond flour is a great substitute for people who are watching their carbs or adhere to a gluten free diet. I also enjoy cooking with almond flour. Almond flour, sometimes called almond meal, is made from finely grinding almonds into a flour-like consistency. Blanched almond flour is made from blanched almonds, which are almonds that have been briefly cooked in boiling water and then immediately rinsed with cold water to preserve nutrients and enzymes. If you are looking for a good gluten free, dairy free milk substitute, almond milk is made from ground almonds and water. It has a higher protein content than rice milks.
Recently, my daughter went backpacking in Moab, Utah for 5 days. She was able to adamantly stick to her gluten free diet, but not without her paranoid Jewish mother sending her with tons of extra food. Here is a yummy trail mix that I made her for a snack when she got hungry. Trail mixes make excellent snacks. They are easy to pack and throw in your bag for the park, hiking, going to the pool or taking on a run. Loaded with high fats and natural sugars from the dried fruits, ¼ serving of my trail mix can keep you going for hours. But be careful, don’t eat too much, it can be addicting!
Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Chocolate Free Trail Mix
1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans
1 cup dry roasted almonds
1 cup cashews
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup cranberries
1 cup dried mangos
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup dried pineapple bits
½ cup roasted sunflower seeds
Bake drained garbanzo beans for 50 minutes at 400 degrees on a baking sheet.
Combined with above ingredients.
Eat when hungry