Graceful and delicate, the almond tree—referenced as a sacred plant in biblical times—has been revered for millennia. Cultivation of this precious plant is believed to have originated in Persia, Assyria and Palestine. Explorers of the Silk Road between Asia and the Mediterranean regions dined on almonds, spreading the fruit along their routes. Almonds moved further west with the Spanish Franciscan monks in the mid-17th century and eventually reached California. Today, more than 75 percent of the world’s almond crop and more than 6,000 almond farmers reside there.
A year of almonds:
In California, Spain and other almond-growing regions of the world, buds form on the almond trees in November. In late February, as winter begins to melt away, the buds bloom into soft, stunning white and pink-hued flowers in anticipation of honeybee pollination (see sidebar). Spring witnesses the almonds’ maturation, as the inner nut begins to form. The heat of July causes the outer shell to crack, allowing the nut to dry. As summer merges into fall and the branches bend under the weight of their crop, the harvest begins. Shaken from the trees, the nuts fall to the ground, where they are left to dry naturally. The almonds are then collected and further dried, sorted, shelled and, in rare cases, pressed into oil. Of the close to one billion pounds of almonds grown every year, less than five percent are pressed into fine almond oil.
Almonds for the skin:
Sensitive skin needs gentle care. The very fine, light and non-irritating kernel oil from the beautiful almond plant protects and cares for the most sensitive skin, including delicate facial skin and the skin of babies.
In nature, almonds develop in a nurturing haven, with the inner nut safely nestled inside a shell. Under this protection, the nut cultivates its rich composition of unsaturated fatty acids and omega-6 essential fatty acids. These key fatty acids, along with the naturally occurring Vitamin F and antioxidant Vitamin E in almond oil, improve the skin’s barrier function and protect the skin from drying. Sweet almond oil supports the skin’s natural processes so well because its composition closely resembles the make-up of our skin, including its natural oils.
Like our skin, the almond is also sensitive to environmental changes. A delicate balance between moisture and dryness is essential. The sweet almond grows best in warm, dry environments, allowing it to cultivate the moisturizing oil within its kernel. “We always hope for dry weather [when the almonds blossom] so that the bees can carry out their pollination work effectively,” says Glenn Anderson, who grows organic almonds in California’s Central Valley.
Nature shares its ability to cultivate a harmonious environment, like that found in the sweet almond tree, with us. Our skin, in turn, thrives off of these nature-made qualities to care for itself.