Cultivated since ancient times in the Middle East, the almond has spread to countries and cultures all over the world, in dishes both sweet and savoury. The almond is highly revered in some cultures. The tree grows in the Middle East, and is referred to in the Bible under the name of “Shaqued”, meaning “hasten”, or the literal Hebrew meaning “Awakening One”. This is an appropriate name since the almond tree is one of the first trees to flower at the close of winter, around late January/early February.
Among the Hebrews it was a symbol of promise and watchfulness due to its early flowering, symbolising God’s sudden and rapid redemption of His people after a period when he seems to have abandoned them.
In the Bible the almond is mentioned ten times and is described as “among the best of fruits”. Christian symbolism often uses almond branches as a symbol of the Virgin Birth of Jesus; paintings often include almonds encircling the baby Jesus and as a symbol of Mary.
The word “Lorz” is another name for the almond. In India, consumption of almonds is considered to be good for the brain, while the Chinese consider it a symbol of enduring sadness and female beauty.
Almonds are a high source of Vitamin E and monounsaturated fat. There are two forms of the plant; the white flowered plant produces the sweet almonds while the pink flowered plant produces the bitter almonds. Almond oil is prepared from either variety of almond. It has a slight odour and nutty taste and is almost insoluble in alcohol. While the almond is often eaten on its own, raw or toasted, it is used in a number of dishes.