This blogpost will be of interest to lovers of: almonds, food anthropology, and etymology.
The almonds are just out in the Alto Genal valley, their gentle white and pink flowers contrasting sharply with the wiry bare branches of the figtrees. Harbinger of spring, the almond is always the first to blossom and interestingly the last nut to be harvested. Although my research informs me that the almond is not a nut, but a drupe.
This year the annual almond explosion took me by surprise as we are still waiting for winter to happen and I was inspired to research the origin of this so-called drupe.
In Spanish, all words beginning with the Arabic article, al-, were contributed by the Islamic Exchange that took place after the Arabs invaded Spain in 711. Luxury items such as alfombra (carpet), almohada (pillow), practical ideas such as algibe (water deposit), scientific words such as álgebra and alquimia. The Arabs brought with them foods that have become staples in Spain and the Mediterranean in general: rice, oranges and lemons, courgettes and aubergines, saffron and cinnamon, dates and, naturally, almonds.
I have always believed that almonds came with the Arabs on the basis of the al-, but my research proved me wrong. I found that the word in fact comes from Greek and the “ell” is excrescent which means it is abnormal and unjustifiable. Fancy!
Almonds are a common feature of Spanish cuisine from the aperitif almonds sauteed with paprika (delicious with a glass of fino) to a hearty pork in almond sauce that is made here in Cartajima.
And, of course, these little drupes are incredibly good for us. So, next time you are in Cartajima at Los Castaños, just let me know you have read this and are interested in sampling some almond fare and I will be happy to oblige.