Since ancient times, almonds have been prized throughout the world for their delicious taste, crunchy texture, and increasingly, for their nutritional value. Montagu Dried Fruit & Nuts imports Nonpareil Almonds from California, the world’s largest producer of almonds. With its ideal growing conditions, including a mild climate, rich soil, and abundant sunshine, this area produces about 80% of the global almond supply, exporting to nearly 90 countries.
Like nectarines, peaches, and plums, the almond is categorized botanically as a fruit. Almonds are classified as either sweet (Amygdalus communis L. var. dulcis) or bitter (Amygdalus communis L. Var. amara), but only sweet are grown in California. Almonds grow on trees that bloom from mid-February through March. These trees are not self-pollinating, so bees have an important role. For the trees to produce, at least two different almond varieties must be planted in alternating rows. Almonds develop in a shell that is surrounded by a hull (analogous to the fleshy part of a peach). Over the summer, as the nuts mature, the hull dries and splits open, revealing a shell that encases the nut. The nuts dry naturally in this shell before they are harvested. Between mid-August and October, almonds are harvested by mechanical tree “shakers,” which knock the almonds, still in their hulls, to the ground. The nuts are then gathered and delivered for processing, where the next stage of cleaning and grading occurs.
There are approximately 30 almond varieties produced in California orchards. Ten varieties represent over 70% of production. Varieties are grouped into broad classifications for marketing purposes based on distinguishing characteristics such as size, shape, and “blanchability.” The majority of almond production in California falls into the following three major classifications: Nonpareil, California, and Mission. Some varieties may fall under more than one classification because they have characteristics of one type (such as Mission) but are also blanchable (a characteristic of the California classification). All California Almonds are developed using traditional methods; genetically modified almond varieties are not planted or available in California.
Why are they called Nonpareil? The word Nonpareil(s) is from the French meaning ‘without equal’.
Source: Almond Board of California