On the 17th of March, the day after inspecting and trimming the trees at the olive grove near Exarchos, we took a run out to another couple of olive groves to do some fertilizing. One of them is located next to a plantation of about 50 almond trees on a steep slope of a mountain. While the weather has been cold, the almond trees were in full bloom which created a beautiful sight.
Almond trees only produce every other year. Four years ago, I had the experience of helping with the almond harvest during my first summer time trip to Greece. I enjoy all kinds of nuts including almonds, so it’s great to have a stock on hand almost all the time – and knowing exactly where they come from.
With all the blooms on the trees, there was also the clear sound of hundreds of bees buzzing – but the nectar from almonds does not make a very pleasant tasting honey. Nevertheless, bees are quite attracted to almond flowers and they are invaluable in ensuring pollination of the flowers. These bees likely made their way from a good sized apiary that could be seen further down in the valley:
Zoomed in, you can see the apiary (a location where beehives of honey bees are kept):
I counted approximately 35 bee hives – but there could be more.
Bees are known to fly up to 12 km from their hives, although generally they average around 3 km. I’m not sure the exact distance from the almond grove to that apiary, but it would definitely be within distance for the bees.
While the almond trees were all in bloom, there were virtually no leaves yet on any of the trees.
Technically, almonds are not actually a nut, but a drupe – and while it is difficult to imagine, they are actually the stone of the fruit, similar to the stone you find inside a peach. You can read more about how to understand what a drupe is with this wikipedia page.
Harvesting them manually is hard work! I know, I’ve done it. Basically, you lay tarps under the trees and you start banging at almonds up in the tree with some kind of long pole, to loosen them and cause them to fall. While this may sound easy, after many hours in the hot blazing sun, and even to climb the trees to reach the higher hanging drupes, it’s a full day of physical labour.
Often, many of the almonds may not be dry enough and need to be out in the sun to reduce the moisture content for further storage. If this is not done, there is a big risk of rot with too much moisture present.
The work and labour is worth it when you have a great harvest! Hopefully later this year, barring any unforeseen weather events, there will be a great harvest of almonds at this grove in 2022!
In Greece, almonds are called “amygdala” – a word you may have heard of before describing two regions of your brain. Because the shape of these clusters is “almond-shaped,” they were named with the Greek word for almonds. Perhaps a bit of trivia you didn’t know!