Almonds are the fruit of the almond tree, which comes originally from Western Central Asia. It has been cultivated for 4,000 years and now grows around the world. The sweet almond was already an important staple food many hundreds of years ago in the regions where it originated. The traditional healer Hildegard von Bingen even saw the almond as a remedy and recommended eating five to ten of them a day. The stone fruits are indeed packed full of valuable nutrients. Their health benefits have been unequivocally proven by studies. Here at BERTRAND, we also make use of the countless essential nutrients provided by the almond for our drinkable meals.
Where do our organic almonds come from?
The primary location where almonds are grown today is California, making up around 75 percent of the total harvest.
However, almonds are also cultivated here in Europe, namely in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece. At BERTRAND, we primarily procure our organic almonds from small farming operations in Italy or, to be more exact, in Sicily. In the event of Italian almonds being unavailable, we divert to Spanish products. For ecological reasons, we have consciously opted to use European almonds to avoid long supply routes. All of our suppliers have undertaken the of use organic farming methods. This means that the almonds are not allowed to be treated with synthetic pesticides for pest control. In conventional cultivation, the use of hydrogen phosphide as a fumigant, among other things, is common, something we naturally reject. The use of sulfur as a method of preservation is also prohibited for organic almonds.
How are the almonds processed?
There is a huge range of almond products on the market. They are available in peeled and unpeeled, roasted and raw, ground, chopped, slivered, salted, sugarcoated and candied form. This illustrates almonds’ popularity and diverse range of uses. For BERTRAND drinkable meals, we require two forms: ground almonds and almond crunch. In order to acquire this, the sweet almonds pass through many stages.
THE GROUND NEEDS TO BE RIGHT
On small organic farms in Italy and Spain, our almonds are grown in accordance with the rules of organic farming. It takes many years before an almond tree bears fruit. In order to be successfully pollinated, the tree needs a longer climatic dry period during the flowering period in spring, during which the plant requires good irrigation. The blossom then develops into a green velvety stone fruit that contains the almond kernel.
TREES ARE SHAKEN
Harvesting takes place between the end of August and the end of October, depending on the type of almond. The fruit husks burst open as a sign of their ripeness. Shaking equipment is then used to shake the fruit down from the tree. In order to avoid damaging the almonds, herbs and grasses are planted between the rows of trees, which are mowed before the harvest. These form a soft bed for the almonds to fall on during harvesting. At first, they stay lying there until they show a certain level of dryness. Special machines then “sweep” the fruits up from the ground into a vehicle for transporting.
THE SHELL REMAINS
Cleaned of hay, leaves, dirt and foreign bodies, the almonds are first stored in a dry place. The almond kernel is still inside the shell, which protects it from negative influences. Small-scale growers in Italy or Spain attach great importance to storing their goods in a manner which preserves their value.
IT'S THE CORE THAT COUNTS
The hard shells are only removed from the almonds in their country of origin once we have placed an order with our suppliers. Using small rollers to gently process them, the shells are broken open and the kernels cracked fresh from the shell. This means that they remain in their protective shell until just before undergoing further processing.
SWEET, NOT BITTER
As sweet almonds don’t contain any hydrogen cyanide, they can be eaten raw. However, sweet almond trees can also bear bitter almonds in isolated cases. Every delivery is therefore checked for bitter almonds. The proportion must be below 0.2 percent.
THE SKIN HAS TO GO
The sweet almonds are then blanched. This removes the dark skin around the almonds and leaves a light, almost white almond. Before being cut into smaller pieces, the almonds need to be dried again.
THE WHOLE ALMOND WITH ALL ITS CONTENT
CUTTING DOWN TO SIZE
The bulk of our organic sweet almonds are finely ground until they are around the size of flour. What we are then dealing with are “grated almonds” and not “almond flour”, which is a by-product of the extraction of almond oil. These grated almonds find their way into all our BERTRAND drinkable meals. Another part of the almonds are processed into small almond pieces. This allows us to enhance our BERTRAND classic and BERTRAND vegan versions.
CONTROL IS GOOD
Last but not least, the almonds are subjected to a “metal detection” process to ensure that they are of perfect quality. This filters out metal particles that may potentially have entered into the almond mass during the previous processing steps.
Why almonds though?
Organic almonds are a valuable food. Some are even considered “superfoods”. Almonds weren’t previously an important staple of the subtropical regions diet for no reason. In Arabic countries, the delicious kernels are still part of many dishes or constitute a popular snack in between meals. We also want to make use of the many vitamins, minerals and healthy (unsaturated) fats found in almonds for our BERTRAND drinkable meals.
Among the vitamins contained in almonds, the B vitamins and vitamin E should be highlighted. Their content is truly remarkable. B vitamins (in this case: B1, B2, B6 and folic acid) are regarded as radical scavengers. They have a significant involvement in our metabolism, are important for blood formation and for the transmission of stimuli in the nervous system. Vitamin E is also known as an antioxidant. In addition, it protects vegetable fats from quickly becoming rancid. As a result, the fatty almond possesses its own built-in protection against going rotten. The minerals and trace elements to highlight due to being present in significant quantities are calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc. With the help of almonds, we are also therefore able to ensure that you’re supplied with the nutrients guaranteed by us in accordance with reference values based on NRV (nutrient reference value).
Almonds contain around 54 percent fat. A large proportion of this comes from monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic acid) with a smaller proportion coming from polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic acid). From a health point of view, the fat composition of almonds is therefore beneficial; it is similar to that of olive oil. As a result of their high fat content, 100 grams of almonds have an impressive 580 kilocalories. However, as studies have shown, the energy is not fully utilized due to the high fiber content. Thus only about 129 kilocalories of a portion of 170 kilocalories are used. At the same time, the kernels saturate very well and on a sustained basis. And: 1 almond weighs just 1 gram.
With a total value of around 21 percent, vegetable proteins, such as the amino acid l-arginine, also play an important role and contribute toward satisfying our protein requirement. Almonds are also a good source of fiber – each of the little stone fruits contains 12 percent.
And last but not least, organic sweet almonds simply taste delicious: mild and sweet, yet slightly nutty without being overpowering. We therefore also use them to enhance the flavor of our BERTRAND drinkable meals. In the BERTRAND classic and BERTRAND vegan versions, we also use almonds in small pieces to create a special, lightly crunchy feeling in your mouth. In the BERTRAND active version, we forego the crunch so that it is particularly easy to drink, such as when doing sport.
Doubts about almonds?
Bitter almonds contain about 3 to 5 percent amygdalin, a cyanogenic glycoside. During the digestive process, this is metabolized by splitting off the sugar to highly toxic hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Raw bitter almonds are therefore unsuitable for consumption when untreated. The hydrogen cyanide is only destroyed by boiling, since it is very volatile and sensitive to heat. Due to this, there are concerns about almonds in general, but such concerns are unfounded when it comes to our drinkable meals. This is because our almonds are tested for bitter almonds before we add them to our products. The almonds are only approved for further use if the proportion lies below 0.2 percent. We can therefore rule out the possibility that bitter almonds – and therefore hydrogen cyanide – are present in our BERTRAND drinkable meals in quantities that are harmful to health.
- Picture of the oat field in the upper part of the page: Sata Production via Shutterstock
- European map: teka12 via Shutterstock
- Post picture, almond on white background: Hekla via Shutterstock