Almond Tree and Fruit
The almond is native to Iran, from northwestern Saudi Arabia, north through western Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, western Syria, to southern Turkey. It is a small deciduous tree, growing to between 4 and 10 meters in height, with a trunk of up to 30 centimeters in diameter. The young shoots are green at first, becoming purplish where exposed to sunlight, then grey in their second year. The leaves are 1 cm long and 1.2–4 cm broad, with a serrated margin and a 2.5 cm petiole. The flowers are white or pale pink, 3–5 cm diameter with five petals, produced singly or in pairs before the leaves in early spring. The fruit is a drupe 3.5–6 cm long, with a downy outer coat. The outer covering or exocarp, (fleshy in other members of Prunus such as the plum and cherry), is instead a leathery grey-green coating called the hull, which contains inside a hard shell, and the edible seed, commonly called a nut in culinary terms. Generally, one seed is present, but occasionally there are two. In botanical terms, an almond is not a true nut. The reticulated hard woody shell (like the outside of a peach pit) surrounding the edible seed is called the endocarp. The fruit is mature in the autumn, 7–8 months after flowering.