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Almond is technically the seed of the fruit of almond tree; a huge tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers. Almonds have a multitude of advantages. In a country like India people soak almonds in the night and have it in their breakfasts to improve memory and get rid of other neurological diseases. The almond nut that we all are familiar with is the seed of the fruit of the almond tree. These seeds are similar to the seeds of other comparable fruit plants like apricot, cherry and peach. The color of almonds is off-white and they are covered by a thin brownish skin, encased in a hard shell. Almonds are of two types - sweet and bitter. Sweet almonds are eaten and used in other preparation while bitter almonds are used in oil production.

Origin of Almonds

Almonds were originated in Western or central Asia. Almonds were widely used for cooking desserts and other dishes. Almonds have been used for thousands of years. Arab traders had regular contacts with Spain and Portugal for almond productions. Almonds were introduced in Northern India by Persian and Spanish settlers. Almonds are now used in preparation of non-vegetarian dishes and desserts.

Methods of Preparation for Almond Recipes

Almonds are used in different kinds of dishes, be it non-vegetarian food, simply vegetarian dishes or desserts. Almonds have a rich texture. Whole shelled almonds can be chopped by hand or can be placed in a food processor. Almonds are also roasted and eaten as snacks. Almond skins are also blanched for a few minutes to be eaten. Many cakes, pastries, puddings and other desserts use almonds as the base.

Cuisines Commonly Making Almond Dishes

Almonds are used in both vegetarian dishes as well as desserts. Some of the commonly popular dishes include Cranberry Spinach Salad, Kulich, Italian Easter Bread, Galician Almond Cake, Oriental Coleslaw, Kashmiri Chai Tea, Cherry Pie, Spicy Pumpkin Fudge and Chinese Napa Cabbage Salad.

Preferable Methods of Cooking Almonds

Almonds should always be roasted to bring out the best of flavor. Almonds are a favorite inclusion to muffin and bread preparations. It is recommended to toast the almonds lightly before they are added to the batters that are used for preparing these dishes as they will impart a good flavor to the dish. Make sure that the almonds are taken out of the shells before roasting them otherwise the nutrient values get destroyed and the almonds would not get roasted properly. Almonds after being roasted can also be grated to add to desserts and other dishes.

Nutritive Value of Almonds

Almond and almond oil is used extensively in ancient medical techniques like Ayurveda and Unani medicines. Unlike many other nuts, almonds do not have a high fat content. They are high on nutrients like calcium which is important for healthy development of bones. The vitamin E contained in the almond has not only made it a coveted nut for beautiful human skin, but more importantly for its protective action against cancers and cardiovascular diseases. The fat in nuts is unsaturated, or the "good" fat and there is no cholesterol in these fats.

Buying and Storing Almonds

Almonds are in high demand for their nutritional worth and are thus purchased in different forms. They are available with shells , shelled and with skin, blanched, as almond flakes, in silvered form or ground into a powder. While buying shelled almonds one should be careful that the nut inside is not spoilt. Almonds that are not shelled are best stored in a cool and dark place in airproof containers. Almonds that are stored this way can be preserved for two or three months.

Types of Almonds

Almonds are of two varieties bitter ad sweet. The sweet almonds are the variety that are generally used in almond recipes. The bitter almonds are used for medicinal purposes.

Non- Food Uses of Almonds

Bitter almonds are used to produce almond oils which are very good for skin. Bitter almonds are also used in Chinese and other form of medicines for their medicinal values.