We finally cracked into a hard shell almond only to taste bitterness. It was strongly almond but also, according to the internet containing a glycoside, amygdalin, which metabolises to prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) that is not good for you and mildly toxic.
We have three soft shell almond trees but these have been planted behind the hazelnut grove so don't get much sun. They are suffering from their lack of sun and also the other trees growing close to them. The almonds we did get off these trees were delicious. They were also easy to remove the almond out of the shell and we just ate them raw off the tree. But we didn't get very many at all, perhaps a handful per tree. We will cut down the extra trees around the soft shell almond trees to give them more of a chance and we have pruned them back to the healthy branches to hopefully help the development of the trees and more nuts next season.
We also have three hard shell almond trees situated in a sunny position and these were covered in nuts. The difficulty was the bitter flavour. We decided one is definitely a bitter almond tree but the other two are not quite bitter to the same degree. From the reading online and offline, it would seem, having the bitter tree is good for pollination purposes. So we started just collecting the nuts from the two trees we don't think are as bitter.
I tried cracking the nuts out of the shells and blanching them in boiling water but they were still bitter.
I tried roasting just the nuts in a frypan on the stove and they were still bitter.
I was about to suggest cutting down all three trees, when we tried the method we use for the hazelnuts. We put the nuts in their shells in the square cake tin on top of the fire for several hours. This makes them quite nice and gets rid of the more intense part of the bitter flavour.
These nuts we have covered in melted chocolate to create a sort of rough looking, scorched almond.
But we mostly end up just eating the almonds after they have been roasted over the fire.
The hard shells are definitely harder to get into. Come July they do seem to open up more and currently there are many split shells lying under the tree. So next season, I will keep a closer eye on what is happening to the almonds that have fallen from the tree and see if their shells can be more easily opened if left until late June/early July.
The vice grips do work for getting into the shells but more strength is required.
If I was planting almond trees, I would just plant soft shell almonds for ease of getting into the almond and the less bitter flavour.
But this article (and other similar articles from Italy and other European countries) about the superiority of hard shell almonds still has me wondering if the hard shell are better after all, just more almondy than I have experienced previously.
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