THE ALMOND BLOSSOM IN FULL GLORY
When the start of the year is still icy cold with snow in most countries, Mallorca however, offers a unique natural spectacle. From the end of January to mid-March, the island springs to life with an impressive foretaste of what lies ahead. The time of the almond blossom has arrived and for several weeks, the fields will turn into a delicately fragrant and colorful sea of blossom. The mild winter climate with its sunny days and pleasant temperatures of between 15 and 20 degrees offers excellent growing conditions that gives the Ametlla de Mallorca enough sun to develop its unique sweet taste, and can be enjoyed natural or roasted. The small, sweet and healthy fruit (which in the actual botanical sense is not a nut, but a stone fruit) is a firmly anchored part of Mallorcan cuisine, which has been awarded the protected geographical indication.
Recipes from today’s gastronomy such as Gató de Almendra, the Mallorcan almond cake, which is tradi- tionally made only from almonds, sugar, eggs, lemon peel and powdered sugar, the traditional almond ice cream and the almond liqueur Flor d’Amentella are just a few of the intense and delicate foods to benefit from the wonderful flavor of Mallorcan almonds.
Almond tree cultivation makes up a third of the agricultural area in Mallorca today. With 200 different varieties growing with around seven million trees, there are sweet almonds with white blossoms and bitter almonds with pink blossoms. The annual yield of 7,000 tons, makes the almond, with its long history, to a huge contributor to the agriculture sector.
The almond trees, which have their origins in Central and Western Asia, were brought from the Orient by the Moors and introduced to Mallorca at the beginning of the 10th century, where they found excellent conditions and thrived very well. At this point, they played only a minor role alongside other agricultural products, since wine was the main produce.
The almond finally experienced its triumphant advance when a wine plague was probably introduced from the North American East Coast via London to France in the early 1860s and attacked the local grapevines. A few decades later, phylloxera (lat. phyloxera) had spread further and by 1900 it not only raged across Europe, but also destroyed vineyards in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Mallorca was particularly hard hit when a large part of the vines were destroyed. The farmers, who had to look for an alternative, tore out the sick vines and planted almond trees without further ado. That this was the right decision became evident in the middle of the 20th century, when the island had developed into the world’s largest contiguous almond growing area.
Although you can find almond trees all over the island today, as every community is sure to have an almond tree field nearby, their greatest concentration is probably in the center of the island, especially in Santa María, Lloseta, Marratxí, Inca, Selva, where you can find the colorful and natural spectacle. Other regions where the splendor is particularly picturesque are from Palma in the southwest towards Andratx, Port Andratx and S’Arraco. Likewise from Palma in a northerly direction to Bunyola, further to Valldemossa and to Sóller you will find a rich flower- ing. There are more almond fields around Llucmajor, which offer unforgettable views in a varied landscape. On the East Coast, the area between Santanyi and Felanitx, as well as between Porto Cristo and Porto Colóm, offer a feast for the eyes of delicately scented seas of flowers. The further you go to the northeast, however, the almond tree population steadily decreases and there are fewer trees.
This article was first published in Issue 16