Proud Growers of California Almonds Since 1990

Almond Facts

Almonds are an an ancestor of stone fruits such as nectarines, peaches, plums and cherries. They are categorized botanically as a fruit, and grow on trees closely resembling peach trees in size and shape. They have a tough gray-green hull that looks similar to an elongated peach. When mature, the hull splits open to reveal the almond shell, which encloses the nut.

Green almonds

Almond History

Almonds are believed to be one of the world’s oldest cultivated foods. Their exact origin however is unknown. Some believe they originated in ancient China and central Asia, evolving from a wild species. Others say on the steppes between the former Soviet Republics and northwestern Iran.

Almonds were a valuable commodity on the “Silk Road” between Asia and the Mediterranean. Explorers carried almonds with them as sustenance. Dry, hot summer and winter rains proved to be ideal growing conditions for the kernels they dropped along the way, and almond trees spread to the Mediterranean.

Almonds were mentioned in Assyrian and Babylonian texts, the Old Testament of the Bible, and in records of ancient Greece. Around 3000 B.C. the ancient Romans brought these “Greek nuts” home with them, and ultimately introduced them throughout the Roman Empire, from Egypt all the way to England.

Spain and Italy eventually became the first major almond producers, cultivating them in their warm, dry climates as a flavorful food and for their light, silken oil. Almonds traveled with explorers from Spain, and it wasn’t long before the nuts’ fame had spread to the New World.

In the mid-1700s, Franciscan Padres planted almond trees along El Camino Real (The Royal Road), which stretched along the California coast. But the cool, wet weather of the coast hindered development of almonds as an annual crop.

It wasn’t until settlers began moving further inland that they discovered almonds flourished in the Mediterranean-like climate of Central California.

Almond orchards began to prosper in the Sacramento and San Joaquin areas of the Central Valley. By the 1880s, research and crossbreeding had produced several of today’s prominent almond varieties. By the turn of the century, the California almond industry was firmly established.

Almonds Today

There are approximately 6,000 almond growers and 100 almond handlers (processors) in California, producing almonds throughout the Central Valley.

California produces 80% of the world’s almonds supply, of which about 30% is consumed in the United States with the remaining 70% being exported to more than 90 countries worldwide.

Almond production has risen dramatically over the years. The 2008 crop is estimated to be over 1.5 billion pounds.

Almonds are:

  • California’s #1 agricultural export;
  • The United States' #1 specialty crop export;
  • The #1 agricultural export to the European Union.

The Almond Board of California was established in 1950 to administer a grower-enacted Federal Marketing Order under USDA supervision. The Boards’ mission is to create a rewarding environment for the production, processing and marketing of California almonds.

The Federal Marketing Order for California almonds is used to support research, promotion and technical services and to increase the consumption of California almonds around the world.

The Almond Board is grower financed, and does not benefit from federal price support programs.