Almonds are off-white in colour, covered by a thin brownish skin, and encased in a hard shell. Almonds are classified into two categories: sweet (Prunusamygdalu var. dulcis) and bitter (Prunusamygdalu var. amara).
Sweet almonds are the type that is eaten. They are oval in shape, usually malleable in texture and wonderfully buttery in taste. They are available in the market either still in their shell or with their shell removed. Shelled almonds are available whole, sliced or slivered in either their natural form, with their skin, or blanched, with their skin removed.
INDIAN ALMONDS TREE
The almond is technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, a glorious medium-size tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers. Scientific name of the tree is TerminaliaCatappa.Like its cousins, the peach, cherry and apricot trees, the almond tree bears fruits with stone-like seeds (or pits) within. The seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut.
Also known as the Sea Almond or Tropical Almond, this Almond tree is among one of the most common trees throughout India, Malaysia and many other parts of SE Asia, growing wild as well as cultivated for its striking features as well as its tasty nut.
This tree has a characteristic pagoda shape because it sends out a single stem from the top centre. When the single stem reaches a good height, it sends out several horizontal branches. It can get very large reaching 30m in ideal conditions.
A deciduous tree it can shed its leaves twice a year. In Autumn the leaves turn into colours of red, copper, gold. The tree first drops its leaves when it reaches 3-4 years old. The grey fissured, flaky but not ridged.
The fruits are almond-shaped and green turning brown to purple when ripe. The fibrous shell surrounds an edible nut. This shell helps the fruit to float as the seed is dispersed by water.
The nuts are edible, taste very much like almonds although it can be a challenge to remove the flesh from the hard stone. Unlike the commercial almond, the Sea Almond can be eaten raw. Oil extracted from the dried nuts is edible and used in cooking (South America).
HEALTH BENEFITS OF ALMONDS
Almonds contain monounsaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fats and hence they help to lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or the bad cholesterol, while maintaining healthy high-density lipoproteins or good cholesterol levels.
Almonds have great health benefits in terms of healthy skin. Almonds prevent premature appearance of wrinkles, black heads, pimples and dry skin as well. A regular massage with almond oil will help you to get a glowing and flawless complexion.
Almond oil is also used to treat black circles around the eyes, since almond oil helps to re-vitalize the fatigues cells and improve the blood flow.
Almond oil is extremely useful for treating all sorts of hair problems as well. Almond oil helps as a cure for treating hair-fall, dandruff and avoids untimely graying of hair as well.
Almonds have an extremely high nutritive value since they contain copper, iron and vitamins and are hence used as a remedy for anemia.
Almonds are also beneficial in treatment of constipation since they increase the fiber content of the food as well.
Almonds are also used in the pharmaceutical industry. Sweet almond oil is used as a carrier for injectable drugs, which deteriorate in water-based carriers.
Almonds decrease the after-meal rises in blood sugar and are hence help in maintaining a healthy blood sugar level.
Almonds also have antioxidant properties and are hence very beneficial for the health.
Almond oil is also considered as one of the most popular choice of massage oils, which rejuvenates the body and replenishes the skin. It is also known to relieve the stress.
Babies who have lactose intolerance, can be given a mixture of powdered almonds mixed with warm water, which provides as much if not more nutrition as milk.
Almonds contain Alpha-tocopherol, which is a major source of Vitamin E and is hence really great for healthy hair and skin.
Almonds also increase the blood flow to the vital organs and are also used as aphrodisiacs.
Almonds provide nutrients that help to increase the bone mineral density, which helps to strengthen the skeletal system. Owing to this it can also be considered as a remedy to cope up with osteoporosis in the elderly.
Aromatherapy also makes use of sweet almond oil, which is one of the essential oils in aromatherapy and is frequently used as carrier oil.
Almond oil also possesses laxative properties and helps to produce soft stools and avoid any other problems of the digestive system.