As a warning that spring is approaching we can enjoy in our fields one of the most marvellous spectacles of nature: the flowering of the almond trees.
Their beautiful and abundant flowers appear before the leaves, when the trees are bare and are the best dress they can have, flowers in shades of white, sometimes with a reddish interior, pink or salmon, depending on the different varieties. Pollen and nectar are a much sought after food for the bees after the hardships of winter and so they begin to collect the honey for the season.
Our almond trees are on farms close to the Arbequina olive trees, which do not flower until later in the spring. Sometimes they are in the same fields alternating the trees and are a sample of the traditional landscape of the Mediterranean areas.
Late frosts sometimes compromise the harvest of the traditional varieties of our area: llargueta, marcona and común and they are combined with other later flowering almond trees in order to have a more reliable harvest.
Almond trees in blossom have been a source of inspiration for painters and photographers and there are many legends from different cultures that since ancient times tell us that they represent hope and the awakening of life. The shower of petals on windy days reminds us of soft snowflakes and leaves the ground of our fields with a white mantle. It is believed that they were introduced into our country by the Phoenicians, forming part of the recipe book of Muslim Spain and their origins are to be found in ancient Persia, where they were already being cultivated 5,000 years ago.
They are very hardy trees, growing in limestone and stony soils where other species would not withstand, withstanding droughts and giving us their precious fruit: almonds, which is one of the healthiest foods in existence.
The almond trees are used for everything, the firewood is of very good quality and a good fuel for ovens and heating boilers, the shoots and pruning residues are excellent fodder for rabbits, goats and sheep. The outer part of the fruits are also used for this purpose and the shells are a resource for heating cookers.
Almonds, both raw and roasted, are a first class food, they are used to make almond milk, an excellent substitute in vegan diets and are the basis of countless recipes and desserts such as marzipan, St. James cake, the traditional panellets of Catalonia and all kinds of nougat. They are an ideal energy food for children and athletes, good for the heart, they protect the arteries thanks to their fatty acids and the amino acids they contain. They are also rich in minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, so necessary for our bones, they have zinc which helps to combat fatigue and increase defences and vitamins A and E which help to detoxify the organism and prevent degenerative diseases.
In our village L’Espluga Calba in the region of Les Garrigues there is a great tradition of cultivating almond and olive trees, you can visit our Cooperative Espluguense, taste our extra virgin olive oil of arbequina olives and walk through the fields of almond and olive trees enjoying its landscape with spring airs.