Almond harvest time

Green almonds pre-harvest before the husks have opened
Green almonds pre-harvest before the husks have opened

Apart from all the fruits that are grown commercially in the orchards on our farm, we also have a pretty big garden, with a wide variety of fruit and nut trees, including 8 almonds (2 each of 4 different varieties) under net.

We’re big fans of nut trees in gardens, particularly if you’re trying to build a permaculture (which stands for “permanent agriculture”) system. We’ve written about them before here and you can find out more about how to create a permaculture system here.

Almonds ready to harvest - the husks have opened and started to dry
Almonds ready to harvest – the husks have opened and started to dry

You can tell when they’re ripe because the husks open up, as you can see above, exposing the shell underneath (and the almond nut is inside the shell).

This week we started picking them, because some of them had started opening up. The other indication they’re ready is that some are on the ground, but we don’t want too many on the ground because in past years we’ve found they’re a pain to find in the grass, because we usually let it grow quite long underneath the almond trees.

Long grass under the trees can hamper the harvest!
Long grass under the trees can hamper the harvest!

This year we learned from previous year’s pain, and cut the grass a few weeks before harvest, which made the process much easier!

After we’ve picked, we remove the husks before we store the nuts, and then we shell them as we need them through the year as they stay much fresher in the shell.

Mowed grass under almond trees makes it easier to find the fallen nuts
Mowed grass under almond trees makes it easier to find the fallen nuts

Now that the trees are mature, 8 trees supply us with enough nuts for eating all year, plus we grind some into meal and use them in cooking as well.

Our small almond block is planted in 2 rows, with 2 trees each of 4 different varieties. Like so many other well-meaning but vague gardeners, we lost the tags, so we don’t know which variety is which! (This is one of the things we caution against in our Grow Great Fruit program — so do as we say, not as we do!)

Variety 1 in our almond block

Normally we pick the whole crop together, but this year we’ve kept the different varieties separate, and will attempt to identify them. As you can see from the photos of the first 3 varieties we’ve picked, they’re all quite different. Variety 1 has a very papery shell (which suggests it might be Canadian Papershell).

Variety 2 in our almond block

We planted pollinisers together, so variety 2 must be either Ne Plus Ultra, Mission or IXL. Ne Plus Ultra has very large kernels, and as you can see from the photo (the sunnies are there to give a size comparison between varieties), #2 is much smaller than #1, so that rules out Ne Plus Ultra. It’s more likely to be Mission, which yields relatively small kernels. Other options include Johnsons Prolific or IXL.

Variety 3 in our almond block

Varieties #3 and #4 were also pollinisers for each other, so the likelihood is that they are Brandes Jordan and Chellaston, but we have no idea which is which! Oh well, they’re all delicious, so it doesn’t really matter, though it’s going to leave me forever curious…

A beautiful almond flower at sunset
A beautiful almond flower at sunset

6 thoughts on “Almond harvest time”

  1. Hi Katie,
    Thanks for the info on almonds. Do you know if almonds have a bigger harvest one year and a smaller one the next year? I didn’t get any almonds this year despite a lot of flowers. Last year was its first year and it was a good crop.

    1. Hi Dy, we’re not almond experts, but have noticed slight variations. As they’re deciduous fruiting trees in the same family as peaches you’d expect the same tendency to biennially bear as peaches (and other deciduous fruiting trees) show. We manage it in the peaches with annual fruit thinning to ensure return bloom, but haven’t tested this on the almonds sorry. Start monitoring and recording more closely, and if you notice biennial bearing then it’s even worth doing an experiment the next time they have a heavy crop – pull off some of the crop just after flowering and see whether it influences the following year’s crop. Good luck!

  2. Any tips on pruning almonds when you’re trying to keep the tree to a manageable size but don’t want to sacrifice most of the crop? My ‘dwarf’ All in one paper shell is thriving but at 4 years it’s already triple the advertised 1.5m height with so much vegetative growth….

    1. Hi Caroline, yes we do! Treat it like a peach tree or any other fruit tree – make a ‘thinning’ cut to reduce the height of the limbs, rather than a ‘heading’ cut, i.e. find a lateral (or side branch – preferably an upright one, not horizontal) that finishes at the new height you want and remove the branch above that lateral. This will leave the apical bud (i.e. the bud at the end of the side branch that you’re choosing as the new ‘leader’ of the limb) as the dominant bud, which helps to reduce excessive branching at the top of the limb. Have you done our free webinar? Pruning is one of the 5 Key Steps we explain in it – here’s the link:

    1. Hi Ange – it totally depends on where you are, where you can grow deciduous trees (like almonds, pistachios and walnuts) depends on your local climate, altitude etc. Maybe chat to some growers at your local farmers market, talk to local nurseries, garden groups etc. and see who’s doing what in your area. There’s an increasing choice of low-chill varieties available now as well which will help. And of course you should be able to grow the wonderful macadamia and pecans. Good luck with your edible garden!

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