Mallorca would not be the island we all love were it not for the annual almond blossom season. January is the month when the trees can first be spotted with a splatter of white or pink blossoms, even the occasional first one just before or just after Christmas; in a couple of weeks’ time, in February, there should be plenty of almond trees in full bloom.
As it happens, blossoming seems to happen a little later than usual this year which pageses (farmers) count as a positive sign for a good harvest. If flowering had started early and a cold spell would set in, if only for a few days, the flower might get damaged and no fruit will be able to grow.
Mallorca suffered from a severe invasion of the phylloxera insect (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae) at the end of the 19th century, causing the extinction of virtually all vineyards all over the island. Until then, wine was the mainstay of agriculture in Mallorca. Farmers swiftly replaced their vines with young almond trees and Mallorca subsequently became an important producer of almonds. But with tourism turning into the prime source of income, the annual almond harvest did not generate enough cash to warrant the labour involved. Today, you will see many almond trees on the island still carrying last year’s crop. A great shame really.
The almond (Prunus dulcis) is mostly eaten raw, or toasted, or even in its green and unripe state; it is mainly used in pastries, cakes and sweets, such as the Spanish turrón, the Mallorcan gató, the Middle Eastern baklava, French nougat, or marzipan and ice cream. There is also almond butter and there is almond milk which reputedly was a staple of mediaeval cuisine because cow’s milk then could not be kept for long without spoiling.
Almonds also give us an oil (Oleum amygdalae) which can be used for culinary purposes or beauty products and is often a substitute for olive oil.
Almonds belong to the same group of plants as the plum, the cherry, the peach and the rose.
The kernels of the bitter almond (Amygdalus communis) are a good source of amygdaline, a chemical compound. According to both, Oriental Medicine and alternative medicine, these kernels are anti-carcinogenic. In Chinese pharmacology, the pits are classified as a drug rather than food as they contain cyanide (hydro-cyanic acid). They are used medicinally and are said to combat cancer, stimulate respiration, improve digestion, help reduce blood pressure and arthritic pain and give a sense of well-being. Don’t take my word for it; I am a blogger, not a doctor. If you have any health problems of the kind mentioned above, please consult your doctor.
Ametler abundós prop d’es camí, agre segur
(traditional Mallorcan proverb)
Every year, the town of Son Servera holds the charming Firó de la Flor d’Ametler at the beginning of February. This year’s event will happen next Sunday, February 1st, at the Cases de Ca s’Hereu, between 09h30 and 14h00. A Fira well worth a visit.