Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cypriot almonds: a beginner’s field guide

Fresh almonds are a commodity to be seized upon. Thus after establishing a surefire way to be in possession a healthy bag of these appetizing kernels we felt it only fair to share the knowledge.

Step One:
As a balmy Mediterranean night takes grasp, find a campsite upon the mountain side. A friendly agriculturist will have converted a steep hill into a terraced orchard perfect for the stealth camping cyclist. Such an abode carries multiple benefits; it’s hidden, flat, allows a delightful view of the preceding valley and bears fruit. Note the piles of shriveled skins on the ground and wonder if you have stumbled across a plum crop.

Step Two:
Time your morning pack-up so that you are caught by the affable owner of the foliage. Your Greek Cypriot farmer should at this stage display how happy his is that you chose his patch. It is not everyday he is graced with cycle tourists. He will show you that inside the outer shell of the nut growing upon the trees is in fact an almond. Watch as he shakes down the trees causing a rain of fruit. Be gracious as he offers you a bag full of uncracked nuts.

An interlude for some botanical nomenclature:
The almond fruit is not actually a nut, but is called a drupe. The outer ‘exocarp’ covering is thick and leathery. In other members of the family (plums and cherries) it is more fleshy, this is what we saw desecrating the ground. The ‘endocarp’ is the hard woody shell which imprisons the edible almond seed, commonly referred to as the nut.

Step Three:
Attempt to break the hard almond casing with a leatherman mutli-tool, pedal wrench, spanner and a barrage of other bicycle tools on hand. Fail with all the above.

Step Four:
Get two rocks. Place almond shell carefully on the first. With the aid of gravity bring the second towards the first until contact with the almond shell is made. Repeat until the outer almond casing is undermined, but your seed remains unblemished. Retrieve your fresh nutty prize.

Step Five:
Discover that 1.5kg of whole almond shells houses a disappointing quantity of almonds.

Step Six:
Indulge with a new found appreciation for a handful of almonds.


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