The almond has a considerable resemblance to the peach in the form of its leaves, and of its blossoms, only the latter are more variable in colour. It is probable that the almond is a native of the Western part of Asia. The almond is mentioned in the Bible as being amongst the best fruits of the land of Canaan. It is very plentiful in China, and in most of the Eastern countries. The almond tree is cultivated abundantly in Italy, Spain, and the sounth of France but it was introduced to these countries later than the peach.
The fruit of the almond is not so attractive as that of the peach, because instead of presenting the same delicious pulp, the outer part of the almond shrivells as the fruit ripens; and when the ripening is completed, it has become a horny kind of husk, which opens on its own. The kernel of some varieties of the almond has a weaker shell than that of the peach or nectarine; for it is often so tender that and that the nuts break when shaken together.
In the south of Europe, where the almond is cultivated with as much care as the peach is in England, its varieties are carefully distinguished. The bitter and and that sweet are distinct varieties; and after this leading character is observed, the variety is further distinguished by the former and degree of harshness of the shell.
In England, almond - trees are chiefly cultivated for the beauty of their early flowers; and for this reason, the common kind, and the double flowering dwarfs, are preferred. There is something very charming in seeing the beautiful almond blossom on bare branches.
Almond trees ripen their fruit in England, though the produce is very inferior to that which is imported. The flowers of the productive almond, both the sweet and the bitter, are much less showy than those of the unproductive. Like most of the other nut - bearing trees, the almond yields an oil. Between the oil of bitter almonds and sweet alomonds, there is little difference; but the bitter almond contains an essential oil, while the Sweet almond has none. The essential oil is exceedingly poisonous, and therefore the user of bitter almonds should be carefully avoided in every instance where there is a chance that the essential oil may be separated in the stomach. The poisonous oil is very violent and even a very small portion of it can be fatal. Also, according to Haller, bitter almonds are a poison to birds and quadrupeds.
The large fruited almond one of the most beautiful varieties. The flowers are twice as large as those of the common sort and remained longer in perfection; the fruit also is larger.
The article above was taken from "A Description and History of Vegetable Substances used in the Arts and in Domestic Economy published by Charles Knight, London, 1829.
Nigel Deacon, Diversity website.
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