Pause 4 Thought

28 February 2020

‘I’d rather get bad news from an honest man than lies from a flatterer.’ – Ursula K LeGuin

I spent half-term in the Alpujarras in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Spain. We were lucky to be able to walk in spring sunshine through glorious (if rather steeply uphill and downhill!) countryside and to enjoy some wonderful local cuisine.  An unexpected pleasure were the almond trees which grow prolifically in the area and which were robed in the most delicately beautiful blossom during our visit. In the evening, many of the dishes that we ate made delicious use of the nuts (actually fruits – see below) gathered from the trees last autumn.

Talking with the hosts of our small guesthouse we learned of the importance of the almond trees. They offer important nutritional benefits – research shows these healthy nuts may both raise healthy cholesterol and lower unhealthy cholesterol at the same time. They provide a rich source of energy, vitamins and oil and last through the lean winter months. We also discovered that the almond tree is rich in symbolism: in Christian faiths it represents purity; in the Jewish religion it is recognised as the ‘tree of life’, whilst a number of middle eastern cultures see the tree as a symbol for light. Certainly in many areas across the globe the tree (which blossoms in January/February) is seen to embody new beginnings.

A rather loose link perhaps to our value of Honesty – but I feel that the purity, fresh start, beauty and wholesomeness embodied by these trees exemplify a nourishing and honest approach to life.

So, to close – a few lesser known facts about almond trees:

  1. The almond fruit technically isn’t a nut but a drupe. The part we eat is the kernel, or seed, inside the elongated stone (shell). Other drupes are peaches, plums, cherries, walnuts and pecans.

2. University of Haifa researchers discovered that almond flower nectar contains a unique poison that does not harm bees, and which bees find irresistible. The scientists speculate that this toxic substance therefore gives the almond tree a reproductive advantage.

3. Almonds provide calcium, protein, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, B vitamins, natural fiber, antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fat. Studies show they protect against diabetes, gallstones and cardiovascular disease.

4. The word “almond” derives from the Greek word “amygdala,” which is why the almond-shaped structures in the brain are called amygdalae

5. The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm.

6. The Chinese consider the almond a symbol of enduring sadness and female beauty.

Have a good weekend.

Mrs D-C