We go about our day-to-day shopping to make sure we get just the right essentials we need for our week. I’m sure, for many of us, that almonds happen to be one of those items we throw into the basket without thinking. I never stopped to think about how far of a journey these little nuts take to get from the farm to the shelf for me to enjoy until I got to see it for myself!
I was fortunate enough to join the California Almond Board during their Harvest 2017 Tour at Stewart and Jasper to get a full tour of how an almond goes from tree to table!
Here’s how the INCREDIBLE, EDIBLE, and FULL OF FIBER ALMOND gets harvested:
Beginning in July when the fuzzy outer layer of the almond, called the “hull,” starts to dry and split open we know harvest is upon us. This stage is called “hull split”. Then from August to mid-October Central Valley orchards are hopping– it’s the busiest time of year for
almond farmers and handlers. Almonds are harvested with an array of specialized equipment though farmers and their employees are still vital to carefully orchestrating and timing each stage of the process. It takes a concerted effort of highly-specialized equipment and the expertise of skilled technicians, operators, farmers, and farm managers.
STEP 1: First a machine called the “shaker” comes & clamps onto the trunk of the tree and vigorously shakes so that the almonds fall from the branches.
STEP 2: The almonds spend a week or so bathing in the California sunshine, allowing the almond kernel time to dry down to that perfect crunch before the next harvest stage. This natural process harnesses solar energy rather than using large dryers which require electricity and additional transport.
STEP 3: Enter the sweepers. vehicles assemble the nuts in tidy rows across the orchard.
STEP 4: Finally, a piece of equipment called a “harvester” or “pick-up machine” comes along to lift almonds off the ground, sucking them up like a vacuum into a cart that is pulled behind. That cart then makes it way to the edge of the orchard where a conveyor belt transports them up into an awaiting tractor-trailer.
STEP 5: After the almonds leave the field, they go to a huller/sheller facility where the kernels pass through a roller to remove the hull, shell and twigs or other debris. Those co-products – the hulls and shells – don’t get put to waste. Instead they are used for dairy feed and livestock bedding, respectively.
STEP 6: Next stop is the handler facility for sizing, where the almond kernels drop into separate bins according to size, and sorting to ensure a safe and quality food product. After sizing and sorting*, almonds are kept in controlled storage conditions to maintain quality until they’re shipped off to your local store for purchase or sent to be made into your favorite chocolate, cereal, energy bar, or many other products we all love.
Here’s a video of what I saw on the tour, for you visual learners like ME:
Fun facts about ALMOND & AND THE HARVEST PROCESS:
- Almond trees are not self pollinating, so bees are an important part of the almond growing process.
- Almonds are harvested usually between August – October each year
- Almonds are cousins of peaches. The pitt of the peach is like the almond of the almond tree.
- The Shell (inner cover) of the almond is used for livestock bedding
- The Hull (outer cover) is used for livestock feed
- Almonds are on the low end of tree nut allergies
- California produces 82% of the globe’s almonds, harvesting about 800,000 acres of the tree nut across a 400-mile stretch from northern Tehama County to southern Kern County.