23 Almonds Per Day Keep the Doctor Away? Almonds Become Cash Cow for California Growers


Pictured is the wonderful farm store of Costa Produce in Escalon, California. Outside the door you can see the almond groves. Inside, fresh almonds, fruit, dried fruits, produce, jellies, jams, syrups and seasonal pumpkins, relishes and other tasty treats are sold. Much of it comes straight from the fields. Store is open May through September/October. Address: 27642 State Highway 120, Escalon, CA 95320. Call before going: (209) 838-6365.

Mooove over California REAL milk. Almond growers in California say they have knocked milk out of first place to become the state's top export in 2010-2011. While there's a bit of jockeying for such claims (combined milk products-milk, ice cream, cheese and yogurt) still are tops, most almond growers are relishing the fact that their investment that has yielded in such a big way.

Almond trees take around five years to yield a crop and 2010 became the tipping point for a wave of growers who switched from less profitable vegetables and other field fruits to almonds around 2004-2006. In addition to the already active almond growers in California, the new batch of businesses have catapulted almonds into an international force.

Almond Facts

  • A record 1.75 billion pounds of almonds in 2011 have to date, set records for crop yield.
  • California supplies more than 80 % of the world's almonds.
  • Approx. 1/3 of the state's harvest comes from Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties, though almonds are grown in Fresno, Kern, Madera, Colusa, Butte, Tehama and other counties, as well.
  • 6,000 commercial almond growers in California
  • Almond exports to China rose from 16 million to 133 million pounds over the past five years.
  • Almond Board of California hired Chinese movie star actress Gao Yuan Yuan for ad campaign appearing during Chinese New Year in China. In India, actress Karisma Kapoor promoted almonds during the winter months, a traditional time for gift giving there.

Growing almond trees: While the seedlings are hard to find because of the popularity of almonds and studies that have shown the food benefits of this healthy fruit, many Californians can actually grow almond trees in their yard.

  • Make sure you buy the sweet almond plant / tree, NOT the bitter almond.
  • Do your research...some trees may require a set of three for cross-pollination. Almonds are pollinated by bees.
  • A single tree takes usually five years to yield an average of around 30-50 pounds of almonds/ year.
  • Almond trees don't like freezing temps.

Almonds are good for you!

  • They offer key benefits to anyone trying to shed a few pounds, namely satiety; fewer calories for more nutrients.
  • 1 ounce serving (about 23 almonds) is an excellent source of three nutrients and 100% cholesterol free for 160 calories and 6 grams of energy-packed protein.
  • Vitamin E in the form of alpha-tocopherol is absorbed more easily by the body and is found in almonds, serving as an important antioxidant.
  • Almonds help neutralize nasty free radicals in your body. These unstable free radicals are molecules that form as your body burns oxygen. They can damage your cells, tissues, and even your DNA, possibly contributing to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Buying almonds

  • Take a trip to "Almond Country" in California to discover that not all almonds (and all times of year) are the same. When you taste raw almonds freshly picked, it is an amazing experience.
  • Ask almond sellers at the farmers markets what the age of their almonds are...or when they were picked.
  • Trader Joe's sells a pretty good supply of almonds and reasonable prices for the daily shopping needs.
  • Beware! Blue Diamond Almond Toppers have been found to contain yeast extract, a hidden source of MSG in the form of free glutamate, the active ingredient of mono-sodium glutamate, or MSG. Unfortunately legislated labeling laws say that if the free glutamate or glutamic acid is less than 78% of an additive, it doesn't have to be labeled MSG. So if you're getting a flavoring ingredient that's 75% glutamic acid, it can be labeled solely by whatever form in which it appears. Then the MSG term won't be on the label to push concerned consumers away. Synthetically produced glutamic acid is a glutamate that is free from other molecules. And whether it is 7.5% or 75% free glutamate it can avoid the MSG labeling while delivering high doses of glutamic acid or free glutamate in each bite of food spiked with whatever enhanced flavoring additives are named. This ingredient cheats by exciting the brain's cells into making you believe the flavor is in the food and not just in your head. So one buys and eats more cheap dead food while getting fatter with less nutrition. Source: Dr. Leonard Coldwell

Points of interest: At the Heidrick Ag Center in Woodland you can visit the farm machinery museum and see interesting machines used to collect and process almonds.

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