Almonds are mentioned as far back in history as the Bible. They were a prized ingredient in breads served to Egypt's pharohs. Their exact ancestry in unknown, but almonds are thought to have originated in China and Central Asia.
Explorers ate almonds while traveling the "Silk Road" between Asia and the Mediterranean. Before long, almond trees flourished in the Mediterranean -- especially in Spain and Italy.
The almond tree was brought to California from Spain in the mid-1700's by the Franciscan Padres. The moist, cool weather of the coastal missions, however, did not provide optimum growing conditions. It wasn't until the following century that trees were successfully planted inland. By the 1870's, research and cross-breeding had developed several of today's prominent almond varieties. By the turn of the 20th century, the almond industry was firmly established in the Sacramento and San Joaquin areas of California's great Central Valley.
Throughout history, almonds have maintained religious, ethnic and social significance. The Bible's "Book of Numbers" tells the story of Aaron's rod that blossomed and bore almonds, giving the almond the symbolism of divine approval.
The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm. Today, Americans give guests at weddings a bag of sugared almonds, representing children, happiness, romance, good health and fortune. In Sweden, cinnamon-flavored rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is a Christmas custom. Find it, and good fortune is yours for a year.
How the tradition began in Australia
It is recorded that almonds were landed on Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia, by the Duke of York in 1836. In 1842, two varieties were first grown in Adelaide, South Australia, making the almond an early settler within this country. With the passing of time and the encroachment of suburbia, the emphasis of almond production shifted to the Adelaide Plains, South Australia, Western Victoria and lower New South Wales.