Fruit and Vegetables

Almond tree - Prunus amygdalus


The almond tree


Rustic and long-lived plant, which can reach the 10m height according to the variety, the almond has Asian origins and is widespread in the Mediterranean countries. It has lance-shaped and thin leaves, similar to those of peach, the flowers are generally pinkish white and bloom abundantly before the appearance of the leaves. In gardens, the almond tree is highly valued for its spectacular flowering and poor sensitivity to diseases and pests. The fruit is a drupe of an elongated oval shape that contains an almond that can be, according to the variety, sweet or bitter and of various sizes.
The almond tree is a plant that adapts to many types of soil, while preferring light and not too wet ones. It does not have particular climatic requirements, considering that it lives well both in warm climates and in colder climates, resisting temperatures even of 15-20 ° below zero, it also has little sensitivity to drought.
The fruit of the almond tree is mostly used by confectionery industries, pastry shops and confectioneries.

Rootstock



For plants intended for parks and gardens, the most widely used rootstock for cultivating the almond is the myrobalan, which gives the plant good resistance, excellent vigor and longevity, while, for plants intended for production, the choice of rootstock varies depending on the type of soil and climate. Peaches are generally used in orchards, which anticipate their use and also give them good vigor, but with the disadvantage of giving the plant a shorter life.

Pollination



Although almond blossoms are bisexual, many plants turn out to be self-sterile, so, in production plants, it is necessary to combine pollinator varieties to ensure good fruit-bearing. However, there are also recently selected varieties that are self-fertile, therefore able to give good fruiting even without the presence of pollinators.

Composting



Excellent results are obtained using fertilizers based on nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK), distributing balanced quantities during the winter, while in the vegetative period, especially in spring, it is possible to intervene again by increasing the dose of nitrogen. Avoid using fertilizers with a high percentage of nitrogen in periods of drought.

Illnesses



The pathogen that mainly attacks the almond is the Bubble, which appears both on young shoots and on leaves, deforming them and making them thicker, where large yellow-red spots can be seen. The almond tree is not particularly sensitive to insect or aphid attacks.

Full wind cultivation




The almond tree lends itself well to being formed in full wind (natural growth). It is possible to form the foliage on a medium stem at about 120 cm, or with a tall stem at about 180-200 cm, therefore, a one year old sucker will be planted and it will have to be immediately cut to the desired height after which, the following year, they will keep at least three branches that will have to be shortened to 20-25 cm from the starting point, these will in turn produce other branches that will also be shortened. By doing this you will strengthen the trunk, the branches that will grow later will be sufficient to form the final crown. In the following years, during the vegetative rest, only internal thinning of the foliage and the elimination of dry branches will be done.

Palmette cultivation




To form a palmette it is necessary to cut the sucker at about 70 cm from the ground, then it will be careful, during the vegetation, to preserve a vertical branch for the arrow and two side branches for the branches, practicing thinning pruning, eliminating the weak branches and those untidy inside the foliage. Later, in the following year, the arrow will appear and two more robust branches will be preserved to create the second floor. It is recommended to create, for the first years of growth, a support structure to fix the lateral branches of the plant.

Pot cultivation




To form the pot it is necessary to plant a sucker for one year and cut it at 40-50 cm from the ground. At the beginning of the second year at least 30 vigorous branches will be shortened to 30-40 cm, keeping them away from the center, which in turn will give other branches of which only the external ones will be preserved. Also shorten these branches again so as to further strengthen the plant, after which the growth will be left free, practicing only some thinning pruning eliminating the disordered branches.

Conditions for the fruiting of the almond tree


The almond tree can be grown anywhere in our peninsula, but, for various reasons, the maximum spread is in the central-southern regions. First of all it is extremely resistant to heat, drought, poor soils, even brackish: very suitable for all those coastal areas or inland areas with torrid summers and water scarcity.
Its cultivation for productive purposes is infrequent in the North due to the extremely early flowering: even short frosts in March or April can abort the newly formed flowers or fruit trees with loss of the entire harvest of the year.
Furthermore, even in the absence of frost, fruiting is not always successful: even for self-fertile varieties, effective pollination is required (in particular by bees), followed by a temperate climate at the time of setting and warm, scarce summers rainfall.

How to implant the almond tree



It is good to choose a position in full sun. If we live in the North we insert the plant in the South, possibly near a well heated wall even in the winter season: it will also be an excellent support if we choose to educate the espalier tree.
Optimum growth and longevity will occur with deep, but poor and well-drained soils.
Instead, those substrates that are too heavy and compact due to the presence of clay should be avoided: we intervene by mixing good quantities of sand and a bit of gravel. We then choose plants grafted on myrobalan.

How to proceed


The best time is undoubtedly the autumn, especially in areas with a mild climate. In the North, on the other hand, it is good to wait until late March because late frosts can seriously damage young specimens.
We dig a deep and wide hole at least 60 cm and we prepare a thick draining layer based on gravel and a little seasoned soil improver. Place the tree and cover with the extracted soil, if appropriate. We schedule weekly for the first few months, then we begin to thin out the interventions.

Collection of almonds



Almonds can be harvested to be eaten fresh or to be preserved.
In the first case you can proceed from mid-summer, for all varieties, performing the work by hand, when the endocarp is still soft.
In all other cases we will have to wait for the beginning of autumn: the endocarp must have completely dried out and we will drop the almonds by shaking the branches.

Preservation of almonds


To preserve the almonds for a long time it is important to let them dry well. They are usually placed on sheets in a shady and ventilated area. Excellent results are also obtained in specially designed rooms located near the plots: they are equipped with nets suspended on several levels and provided with large windows to facilitate the passage of air. They will be ready for storage when the endocarp will be easily removed: in a cool, dry room we can keep them for more than a year.
Once the shell has been removed (and the skin is removed with a brief burn) we will have to keep them in an airtight jar for up to 6 months, also shielding them from light.

Variety of sweet almonds and bitter almonds



The wild produce almonds with a bitter taste and rich in toxic substances such as hydrocyanic acid. The sweet varieties widespread today are derived from an ancient selection originating in central Turkey.
The bitter almond is still little used; commercially the armelline, the seeds that are found inside the core of the apricot, are much more requested. They too bitter and noxious, are used in minimal quantities, mixed with the sweet ones, for the production of amaretti (especially the soft ones) or for the flavoring of liqueurs.

Almond: Typologies and varieties of almonds



We can distinguish two types: the Prunus dulcis var. last but characterized by a hard shell (the most widespread and required by the confectionery industry) and the Prunus dulcis var. fragilis, also of appreciable taste, but not very conservable and therefore less commercially interesting.
The first is also the one that is most easily found for sale in nurseries, declined in interesting cultivars due to their productivity in virtue of self-fertility and late flowering.
The most known and available on the market are:
Filippo Ceo early with dark and very conservable fruits.
Don Carlo extremely vigorous, it has late flowering and abundant production.
Supernova among the most late and self-fertile, medium-productive, semi-hard shell.
Texas very late and productive, soft husk (not very conservable)
Tondina very early flowering, suitable for Sicily and Puglia. Abundant production
Genco late, very productive
Catuccia medium late, very abundant production.
Thunder self-fertile, but suitable for the Center-South where it is very productive
There are interesting selections, with little vigorous growth (like Ferraduel or the Garden Price) that can also be bred in pots.
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