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Almonds are the fruit of the Amygdalus commenis, and are cultivated throughout the whole of the south of Europe, Syria, Persia, and Northern Africa; but England is mostly supplied with those which are grown in Spain and the south of France. They are distinguished into Sweet and Bitter, the produce of different varieties. Of the sweet, there are two varieties, distinguished in commerce by the names of Jordan and Valentia almonds. The former are imported from Malaga, and are longer, narrower, more pointed, and more highly esteemed than the latter, which are imported from Valentia. Bitter almonds are principally obtained from Morocco, and are exported from Mogador.

The almond-tree is a native of warmer climates than Britain, and is indigenous to the northern parts of Africa and Asia; but it is now commonly cultivated in Italy, Spain, and the south of France. It is not usually grown in Britain, and the fruit seldom ripens in this country: it is much admired for the beauty of its blossoms. In the form of its leaves and blossoms it strongly resembles the peach-tree, and is included in the same genus by botanists; but the fruit, instead of presenting a delicious pulp like the peach, shrivels up as it ripens, and becomes only a tough coriaceous covering to the stone inclosing the eatable kernel, which is surrounded by a thin bitter skin. It flowers early in the spring, and produces fruit in August. There are two sorts of almonds,--sweet and bitter; but they are considered to be only varieties of the species; and though the qualities of the kernels are very different, they are not distinguishable by their appearance.

This tree is indigenous to the northern parts of Asia and Africa, but it is now cultivated in Europe, especially in the south of France, Italy, and Spain. It flowers in spring, and produces its fruit in August. Although there are two kinds of almonds, the _sweet_ and the _bitter,_ they are considered as only varieties of the same species. The best sweet almonds brought to England, are called the Syrian or Jordan, and come from Malaga; the inferior qualities are brought from Valentia and Italy. _Bitter_ almonds come principally from Magadore. Anciently, the almond was much esteemed by the nations of the East. Jacob included it among the presents which he designed for Joseph. The Greeks called it the Greek or Thasian nut, and the Romans believed that by eating half a dozen of them, they were secured against drunkenness, however deeply they might imbibe. Almonds, however, are considered as very indigestible. The _bitter_ contain, too, principles which produce two violent poisons,--prussic acid and a kind of volatile oil. It is consequently dangerous to eat them in large quantities. Almonds pounded together with a little sugar and water, however, produce a milk similar to that which is yielded by animals. Their oil is used for making fine soap, and their cake as a cosmetic.

Bitter Almond: The Bitter Almond is a variety of the common almond, and is injurious to animal life, on account of the great quantity of hydrocyanic acid it contains, and is consequently seldom used in domestic economy, unless it be to give flavour to confectionery; and even then it should he used with great caution. A single drop of the essential oil of bitter almonds is sufficient to destroy a bird, and four drops have caused the death of a middle-sized dog.

Sweet Almond: The kernels of the sweet almond are used either in a green or ripe state, and as an article in the dessert. Into cookery, confectionery, perfumery, and medicine, they largely enter, and in domestic economy, should always be used in preference to bitter almonds. The reason for advising this, is because the kernels do not contain any hydrocyanic or prussic acid, although it is found in the leaves, flowers, and bark of the tree. When young and green, they are preserved in sugar, like green apricots. They furnish the almond-oil; and the farinaceous matter which is left after the oil is expressed, forms the _pate d'amandes_ of perfumers. In the arts, the oil is employed for the same purposes as the olive-oil, and forms the basis of kalydor, macassar oil, Gowland's lotion, and many other articles of that kind vended by perfumers. In medicine, it is considered a nutritive, laxative, and an emollient.

Almond Husks: In the environs of Alicante, the husks of almonds are ground to a powder, and enter into the composition of common soap, the large quantity of alkaline principle they contain rendering them suitable for this purpose. It is said that in some parts of the south of France, where they are extensively grown, horses and mules are fed on the green and dry husks; but, to prevent any evil consequences arising from this practice, they are mixed with chopped straw or oats.

Colonial Sense recipes using almond, almonds (20)

Small cakes/cookies

Seasonable in winter

(Parisian Recipe)

Almond cookies

Flavoring for sweet dishes

Moderately-sweet cake

Colonial cookies

Colonial sweet bread

Colonial dessert

Tasty snack or dessert topping

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