A Flora and Fauna of Symi

A personal guide to the wildlife of Symi and beyond

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Almond

February 12, 2014

The almond is now in flower and is one of the earliest flowering trees on Symi.

The almond is native to the Mediterranean region. It was spread by humans in ancient times along the shores of the Mediterranean into northern Africa and southern Europe.

Almond is considered to be one of the earliest domesticated tree nuts. Wild almonds are bitter, the kernel produces deadly cyanide upon mechanical handling, and eating even a few dozen at one sitting can be fatal. Selection of the sweet type, from the many bitter types in wild, marked the beginning of almond domestication. How humans selected the sweet type remains a mystery. It is unclear as to which wild ancestor of the almond created the domesticated species but it has been suggested that it may have come from Armenia or Azerbaijan.

While wild almond species are toxic, domesticated almonds are not. Domesticated almonds appear in the Early Bronze Age (3000–2000 BC) such as the archaeological sites of Numeria in Jordan or possibly a little earlier. Another well-known archaeological example of the almond is the fruit found in Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt (c. 1325 BC), probably imported from the Levant. Of the European countries that the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh reported as cultivating almonds, Germany is the northernmost, though the domesticated form can be found as far north as Iceland.

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