Like nectarines, peaches, and plums, the almond is categorized botanically as a fruit. Almonds are classified as either sweet (Amygdalus communis L. var. dulcis) or bitter (Amygdalus communis L. Var. amara), but only sweet are grown in California.
Almonds grow on trees that bloom from mid-February through March. These trees are not self-pollinating, so bees have an important role. For the trees to produce, at least two different almond varieties must be planted in alternating rows.
Almonds develop in a shell that is surrounded by a hull (analogous to the fleshy part of a peach). Over the summer, as the nuts mature, the hull dries and splits open, revealing a shell that encases the nut. The nuts dry naturally in this shell before they are harvested.
Between mid-August and October, almonds are harvested by mechanical tree “shakers,” which knock the almonds, still in their hulls, to the ground. The nuts are then gathered and delivered for processing, where the next stage of cleaning and grading occurs. Finally, they’re sold to thousands of customers like you.