Almond HarvestOctober 13, 2012
Earlier this week I travelled to the little town of Hickman near Modesto to visit an almond farm. The almond harvest is winding down and I wanted to see the process at work. I always love driving through the Central Valley. When you are in the middle of it surrounded by fields and groves of trees you fully appreciate the huge role agriculture plays in California both economically and as a food producer for the country and in many cases the world.
The farm I visited was 3000 acres and had over 400,000 trees. Everywhere you looked all you could see was trees. As almonds are my favorite nut it was pretty awesome. For me, meeting the farmer, Casey, was like meeting a rock star.
When the trees are ready to be harvested a machine called a shaker attaches to the trunk of the tree and shakes it. 5-10 seconds later all the almonds have fallen to the ground. Next a sweeper comes and with a couple of passes blows them all in a row so the picking machine can scoop them up. Then they are then put in trucks and taken about 5 miles down the road where they are hulled. Once hulled they are sorted, graded and finally sold.
I always have freshly roasted whole natural almonds in my pantry. Natural almonds have the skin on. I buy them raw and roast them myself. I stock up on them when I go to the Valley as they are about $3.50 a pound! To bake them I spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast them in a preheated 350 degree convection oven for 15 minutes. You can check to see if they are done by cutting one in half. If light brown they’re ready. My husband has a handful for breakfast every morning. I like them as an afternoon snack with a little bittersweet chocolate.