Almond (Prunus dulcis)
Its name, although at first it seems to be Arabic, came to us through the Latin term "amygdala" as a loan from some oriental language.
In Hebrew, the almond tree means "awakening" or "being awake". It is possible that this name is due to the fact that in temperate climate zones it is the fruit tree that first flowers in spring, awakening Nature with its flowering to the new season.
Both the almond blossom and its fruit are present in Egyptian and Christian culture as well as in Jewish and Islamic religion.
Almonds were a common ingredient in Egyptian cuisine meaning prosperity, wealth and health and even took on a transcendent meaning when they were found in Tuntankhamun's tomb as companions on his journey to the afterlife.
In the Christian religion, during the Middle Ages, both the image of Jesus and Mary appear inside an almond or mandorla representing the union between the physical and the spiritual by pointing one end of the almond to heaven and the other to earth, leading to the belief that the almond represents Christ and eternal life.
In the Jewish religion the 7-branched candlestick is inspired by the almond tree, as when lit it reminds one of an almond blossom becoming a symbol of connection with God.
The Islamic religion tells us through the Koran that flowers and plants are a gift from God to mankind, so the almond blossom, which is the first to bloom announcing spring, is a source of encouragement for people who are waiting for new opportunities in the coming months.
The cultivation of the almond tree began in Persia and Syria and it was the Greeks who spread the almond tree throughout the Mediterranean. It was not until the end of the 18th century that almond cultivation made the leap to the New World through the Franciscan missionaries who planted almond trees in the San Diego region, later extending its cultivation to other regions of California.
Today, the almond is the most widely consumed nut in the world and is part of both religious and culinary traditions around the world.
Maria Angeles García Hernández