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Thursday, August 11, 2011


Almond Flowers and Tree,
Sta. Eugénia, Balearic Islands
Photo by: Juan Antonion Capó

almendra, Gr. smaragdum, L Prunus amygdalus, Romanic amandala, Ar. háilas, lawz, OFr. amande, Fr. amandier, OE. almande, MEng alma(u)nd, alemauun(de)s pl. Eng. almond. It is believed almonds were among the first foods cultivated in 3,000 B.C. with grapes, dates and olives. Almonds are thought to be natives of China. They were brought to Greece, Turkey and the Middle East including Syria and Palestine over the Silk Road. 

Allegorically, in Ecclesiastes (12:5), Ahikar used it to describe the short cycle of human life. He advised his son: “Be not like the almond tree, for it blossoms before all the trees, and produces its fruit after them.” 

Around 763 Arab traders left Baghdad to set up regular trade with Spain and Portugal and settled there to create a commercial center for goods that came from the Middle East. Although almond trees existed in Alicante, Spain between the 6th-5th B.C., when the Arabs arrived in the 8th C. they missed foods from their homeland such as almonds. Consequently, they imported the tree. The almond flower was one of the most treasured flowers in Muslim gardens in Al-Andalus. Eventually, almonds became a common crop on the Iberian Peninsula and Spaniards developed a taste for them. Almonds are constantly called for in Fadalat and the Anón Al-Andalus. Sent Soví and Nola call for chopped toasted almonds frequently. Almond milk is called in numerous recipes in all four manuscripts. 

A primary advantage Iberians observed was that honeybees were easily attracted to almond orchards and the tree must be cross-pollinated to bare fruit. Due to the lack of sugar at the time, honey was in great demand as the primary sweetener in the home. Honey consumption was enormous. Frequently, almond honey was added to medicines. 

During the Middle Ages, almonds became an important article exported from Sicily, southern Italy and Spain to central Europe. Probably, the almond tree was introduced into England by the Romans as does appear in the Anglo-Saxon lists of plants, but it was not cultivated in England before 1562 and then chiefly for its blossom as it only survives in southern counties. The nut produced in England is most inferior to that imported. Almonds, although expensive, were imported to England. The Harleian 279 contains 83 recipes calling for them, i.e. almost one-third of the total number of recipes. Harleian  4016 also calls for almonds frequently. See almendras amargas and almendras dulces. [Anón/Grewe. 1982:LX:104:LXI:105:CXXV:148 etc Anón/Huici.1966:116:80:36:93:304:170-171 etc; Austin. 1964: various. Curye. 1985:7:ftn2:169; ES: Calle. “Poetas.” Sep 21, 01; ES: Grieve. “Almonds.” 1995; Ibn Razīn/Marín. 2007:38; Ibn Razīn/Granja. 1960::44:21:48:21:52:21 etc Mead. 1931:106; and Nola. 1989:xiii-3:xiiii-1:xiiii-2

Creamy and Frothy Sauce
Photo by: pinterest.com


1/2 c almonds
1/2 c chicken broth
1/4 c vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp pomegranate juice
1 tsp ginger
pepper to taste


Blanch almonds in boiling water and remove skins. Place in blender and grind into flour. Add broth mix well until creamy. Pour into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add other ingredients. Bring to a boil again. Place a strainer over an empty sauce pan and pour the mixture into it. Then pour the mixture back into the first saucepan and continue until frothy. Serve immediately. 

*Nola's recipe xxx-4 is very simular. See azúcar en polvo blog published January 20, 2012..


  1. What kind of vinegar?

  2. Specifying vinegar types is new. In medieval times the type of vinegar was what was available. I would suppose that if you lived in northern Spain it would be apple vinegar while in southern Spain it would be from wine and from sherry if living in Jerez.

  3. Hay una historia preciosa sobre los almendros que recoge Sánchez Albornoz. No tengo a mano el libro y no puedo citar la fuente original, pero es musulmana del siglo X-XI. Abderramán III mandó construir Medina Azahara como ciudad administrativa y de placer a poca distancia de Córdoba. Lo del placer se refiere a que, según la leyenda popular, la habría edificado en honor de su favorita Zahara, quien a pesar de todo se mostraba insatisfecha, puesto que faltaba la nieve. Entonces el califa mandó plantar millares de almendros, para que cuando el viento arrancara los pétalos de las flores diera la impresión de que nevaba. Aparte de más o menos poética, la historia parece indicar que, si la bella Zahara tenía nostalgia de la nieve, muy probablemente procediera (como era habitual) de alguno de los reinos cristianos del Norte.

  4. I believe you are confusing almond blossoms with orange blossoms (azahar) for which the palace was named. That story will be published under "azahar."

  5. In all fairness it does seem that almond trees were planted there, as well as cherry trees. That would have made for continuing blossoms from January through May. What a crime Medina Azahara was destroyed but we will get to that.

  6. I am almost sure they were almond trees: as can be seen plainly in one of the pictures,the fields covered with almond trees become all white when in blossom, having the leaves very small. Instead, orange trees blossom only some weeks in april, and remain massively green, also seen from afar. Then, the most remarkable thing about orange blossoms is the fragrance, an that a good writer or a sensual woman like Zahara could not fail to notice!
    Medina Zahara is now one of the main archeological places in Andalucía; you can walk between the pavilions and excavations, and the new museum is well worth a visit, also. It has won an architecture prize this year. People! don't miss it if you go to Córdoba!