Unlike some exotic nuts, almonds can be found at almost every supermarket and are extremely popular. Many people however do not know the differences between certain varieties of almonds, where they are grown and when the best time to purchase them is. So let’s get everyone up to speed.
There are a few varieties of almonds available in North America. The more common varieties are from California and include the Monterey and Non Pareil. Californian almonds are hard, crunchy, rounder in shape and have a mildly sweet taste. California almonds are not RAW. The term RAW for these almonds really means that they have not been roasted. Therefore, all Californian almonds that you find in your supermarket are not truly raw. Yes, that is correct all Californian almonds must undergo a pasteurization or heat process before they are sold. So if you are looking for truly raw almonds, look for ones from Europe, particularly Italian or Spanish.
European almonds are soft, slender and mildly bitter compared to Californian almonds. They do have a more aromatic flavour and make excellent almond oil due to this. They are harvested during the same months as the Californian varieties but may take a few weeks longer to arrive from Europe once picked, cracked, sorted and packed. Raw European almonds are not heated or pasteurized and are truly raw. Many people are not used to their unique flavour and sometimes mistaken them as not being fresh since they are not as crunchy as the Californian ones. Others bite into them and are lucky enough to find a bitter, almost pungent, almond that has a very strong taste. Yes, this is also normal for these almonds. In fact there is a small percentage of European almonds that you will find in each few hand-fulls that will have an overpowering bitter taste to them. This is absolutely normal and it does not mean that they are rancid or bad. In fact if you look at a certificate of analysis for these almonds, it clearly states that some may be bitter. You will also notice that making almond butter with these will yield a butter with a stronger almond flavour and aroma. Same thing applies when making almond milk. If this does not appeal to you then go for the more bland Californian almonds.
Almonds are only harvested once a year. The trees bloom around February or March and the nuts grow throughout the summer. The almonds are harvested in October which means that they are in local stores in November or sometimes early December depending on the crop for that year. This being said, the best time to buy would be in late November or December since they are the freshest. The shelf life for almonds when stored away from humidity and in a cold environment is 2 + years. You can get a longer shelf life if you freeze or refrigerate them – it’s your choice since nutrients may be lost when freezing.
We at Upaya Naturals only carry Whole Organic Spanish Almonds that are truly raw and not pasteurized (available in 1lb to 55 lb bags). We have been carrying these same whole almonds for almost 10 years and also distribute them to many restaurants and health food stores across Canada. We also carry almond butters made from both Californian and European almonds. Remember, that if you are looking for truly raw almonds or almond butters, make sure they are from Europe.
Tell us what your thoughts are on this wonderful food. Do you prefer European or Californian almonds? What’s your favourite way to use raw almonds?