By: Teo Spengler
You may have planted almond trees in your backyard for their glorious flowers. Still, if fruit develops on your tree, you’ll want to think about harvesting it. Almond fruits are drupes, similar to cherries. Once the drupes mature, it’s time for harvest. The quality and quantity of your backyard almonds depends on using the correct techniques to harvest, process, and store the nuts. For more information about harvesting almond trees, read on.
You probably think of almond fruit as nuts, but almond trees (Prunus dulcis) actually produce drupes. These drupes grow from the tree’s fertilized flowers and mature in autumn. The drupe has a leathery hull that surrounds it, giving it the look of a green peach. When the outer husk dries and splits, it’s time to start thinking about picking almond nuts.
If you want to know when to harvest almonds, the drupe yourself will tell you. When drupes are mature, they split open and, in time, fall from the tree. This usually happens during August or September.
If you have squirrels, or even almond-eating birds, in your garden, you’ll want to keep your eye on the drupes and harvest them from the tree when they split. Otherwise, you can leave them on the tree as long as it does not rain.
Don’t just look at the eye level almonds to tell if the drupes are mature. They ripen first at the top of the tree, then slowly work their way down.
Start almond nut harvesting when 95 percent of the drupes on the tree split. The first step in harvesting almond nuts is to gather the drupes that have already split and fallen.
After that, spread a tarp beneath the tree. Start picking almond nuts from the branches you can reach on the tree. If you have trouble getting them off, quit picking almond nuts with your hands and use pruning shears to snip the stems just above the drupes. Drop all drupes onto the tarp.
Almond nut harvesting continues with a long pole. Use it to knock the drupes from the higher branches onto the tarp. Harvesting almond trees’ drupes means getting those mature drupes off the tree and into your house or garage.
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The almond (Prunus dulcis, syn. Prunus amygdalus) is a species of tree native to Iran and surrounding countries   but widely cultivated elsewhere. The almond is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated seed of this tree. Within the genus Prunus, it is classified with the peach in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by corrugations on the shell (endocarp) surrounding the seed. [ citation needed ]
The fruit of the almond is a drupe, consisting of an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed, which is not a true nut, inside. Shelling almonds refers to removing the shell to reveal the seed. Almonds are sold shelled or unshelled. Blanched almonds are shelled almonds that have been treated with hot water to soften the seedcoat, which is then removed to reveal the white embryo.
Almonds, which are lower in saturated fat than many other nuts, also contain fiber, vitamin E and protein. It is important to harvest your almonds at the right time. If you harvest too early, they will not be ripe enough. If you harvest too late, birds may steal the nuts and insects may infest them. After harvesting, you must hull the almonds and dry them completely for storage. Dried almonds will keep for up to eight months at room temperature, according to the University of California.
Harvest your almonds when most of the hulls have split open slightly. According to the University of California Cooperative Extension, almonds will first ripen at the crown of the tree and then progress downward. The beginning of August to the end of September is the peak harvesting time.
Spread a clean tarp underneath the almond tree.
Knock the branches with a long, sturdy pole. It may be easier to firmly shake lower branches with your hands.
Collect the fallen nuts into a basket as soon as you have dislodged them. Gathering them up quickly helps prevent damage from ants.
Insert your fingers into the split in the hulls and remove them.
Spread the hulled almonds on trays and cover them with a screen to prevent birds from carrying them off. Place the trays outdoors to allow the almonds to dry.
Check the almonds for dryness every day. Select several different almonds from various trays and crack open the shells.
Remove the kernels and break them. If the kernels are brittle when broken, the almonds are dry. If the kernels feel rubbery, the almonds need more drying time.
Store the almonds in airtight containers. The University of California recommends storing them away from pungent items like garlic and onions, as they can absorb odors. You may shell them before storage if you wish, but this is not necessary.
If it begins to rain, move the almond trays indoors.
The University of California recommends that you wear safety goggles and protective head gear, such as a hard hat, when shaking almonds off of trees. They may strike you.
Overgrown almond tree suckers will produce small peaches that are edible and can be harvested.
The almond tree is a deciduous species that blooms much earlier than its fruit-bearing counterparts. Closely related to the peach tree, the almond tree prefers warmer climates with cool winters. It does not tolerate frost and freezing temperatures well, especially during its blooming period. Lacking the ability to self-pollinate, a successful harvest requires more than one variety.
Watch your tree’s blooming process. The flowers will begin the production of the fruit. The leaves will grow and fruit will begin to appear on the tree. The fruit will look similar to peach fruit, displaying the same shape, fuzzy feel and initial color. You will see the hull of the fruit begin to develop. This is what you will harvest when the time is right.
Splitting of the hull will begin to occur. This is a slow process that usually starts in July and August. The hulls will continue to grow and harden. The hardened hulls will slowly begin to split between mid-August and late October. Check the hulls often to follow their progress, but little maintenance will be required. As the hull splits, it will slowly begin to show its shell.
Splitting and hardening of the hull will continue as the nut ripens. During this process, the nut will also begin to dry. This drying process will accelerate as the hull’s split widens.
Harvest your almonds once the hulls open completely. Make sure that the almonds are ready by inspecting hulls from every side of the tree. Prepare the ground for harvest by sweeping away debris. Make sure the ground is dry.
Shake the tree gently or thrash the branches to remove the almonds. Many professional harvesters use a machine to do this, but it is just as efficient to remove the almonds by shaking or thrashing. Harvest when the weather is forecast to be sunny and dry. Remove as many of the almonds from the tree as possible. Once the almonds have dropped, leave them on the ground to dry. They will require one or two days to dry. The drying process is complete when the nuts rattle in their shells and the kernel snaps instead of bending.
Sweep the dried almonds from the ground and place them into a container. Remove the shells from the hull, then remove the nuts from the shell. Only the meat of the almond should be left. Discard the hulls and shells or donate them to a cattle farmer. Cattle farmers often mix hulls into cattle feed for added nutrition. Store your almonds in a cool, dry location.
Are you ready to enjoy delicious homegrown nuts? Harvest is the time to enjoy the results of your hard work. Keep a few things in consideration as you reap the the benefits of your labor: the best time to pick nuts from your tree, and how to store the nuts.
NOTE: This is part 10 in a series of 10 articles. For a complete background on how to grow almond trees , we recommend starting from the beginning.
Harvest almonds in late August through September. Depending on the variety and growing conditions you can start harvesting nuts in 2 to 4 years. Knock or shake the nuts from the tree when the hulls open completely. After nuts are shook to the ground let them sit for 2 to 3 days to dry a little in the sun. The drying process is complete when the nuts rattle in their shells and the kernel snaps instead of bending. After you have swept or raked the dried almonds from the ground, remove the shells from the hull, and then remove the nuts from the shell.
Almonds will store for 1 year in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place or freeze for later use. For best quality package carefully in airtight containers, almonds can absorb moisture and other odors. Almonds can be stored 6 to 8 months at room temperature if left in shell after drying.
The almond is the product of an almond tree and almost all of the world’s wholesale almonds come from California. Farmers grow almonds trees throughout the year and harvest them between the months of August to October. Dependent on water, it takes almost 1 gallon of water to produce each almond.
The best conditions for almond tree farming are climates conducive to a particular winter chilling, which limits almond tree farming to a few regions in the world. Outside of California, you’ll also find almond farmers in Spain, Italy, Australia, Greece, Morocco, Turkey, and Portugal.
As we are starting to see the first almond blooms of the season, let’s delve in deeper on the almond tree farming process.
From Bud to Bloom
From November to February, the buds of the almond tree need to go through the cold weather, but it’s a balance since they can be negatively impacted by a heavy frost. In late February and early March, the almond tree begins to produce blossoms that are ready for pollination.
Since there are different varietals, the time frame of when blooms occur can vary. Climate variation is considered one of the most critical phases in growing almond trees since it can profoundly impact the harvest size. Between late February and early March, almond tree buds burst into beautiful light pink and white blooms in preparation for pollination.
The Pollination Process
Once the almond tree has blossomed, the second phase is pollination. Many almond trees are not self-pollinating, so bees provide the missing piece of the puzzle. Populations of bees are brought to the orchard to carry pollen and initiate crop development.
The Maturing and Hull-Split of Almonds
From March to June the almond tree begins to transform the blossoms into an almond in their hull. Also at this time, green almonds are harvested for various culinary uses. By mid-to-late summer, almond hulls begin to split open exposing the almond shell and allowing it to dry. Shortly before harvest, the hulls open completely.
Almond Tree Harvesting and Processing
The harvest season for almond farmers is from August to October. The growers have mechanical tree shakers which allow the almonds to fall to the ground. For the next 8 – 10 days, the almonds continue to dry in their shell in the orchard and are then swept and picked up by machines.
The drying process of the almonds is critical for the most optimal harvest. At this point, the almonds are transported in their shells onto a roller where the shells, hulls and remaining debris are removed. Every part of the harvest from the almonds to shells to hulls are utilized. After sizing, almonds are kept in controlled storage conditions to maintain quality until they’re shipped to market through various packaging methods and sold as wholesale almonds.
When you buy a good almond tree, the most important thing to look for is, in which condition you grow and which hardiness region you live.
Make sure to buy sweet almonds instead of bitter ones if you want to eat nuts.
You can buy standard almonds like Carmel (well-protected nuts and excellent pollenizer) and Mission which is very productive but it takes time to bloom.
However, if you have tight space like home orchards, I recommend the best variety of All-in-one which grows about half the size of a standard tree.
The All-in-one is an exceptional self-pollinating cultivar, it doesn’t need any helping hand in making fruits and adds value in a small space garden.
The fruit from this tree is considered a soft-shelled nut, and ripens in late September or early October.
The Hall’s Hardy is also a good variety. This cultivar is planted for beautiful pink bloom and it’s nuts.
It is a full-size almond tree which is better for cross-pollination, so be sure to plant another variety nearby for a good harvest, and it generally ripens in October.
Hall’s Hardy is a variety that is cold-tolerant, they are planted in marginal places such as USDA hardiness zones 5-9. They need a bit of chill weather to produce fruits.