Today, six months after harvest and after a very rainy winter, I ate a handful of almonds fresh off the tree. They were crisp, clean and very satisfying.
After every harvest there are a number of almonds that have stuck to the tree. Over the winter their hull and shell turns black with mold. Farmers call them mummies, which is not the most appetizing image; but because the shell protects the actual nut from the
elements they can be cracked open to give a perfectly clean, edible, healthy food. I have been eating them this way for over twenty five years.
I got the inspiration to try this in the days I was still reading dreamers like Henry Thoreau. He wrote that in Spring he liked to eat apples that were left on the tree through the cold Massachusetts winter. He claimed that they were slightly fermented giving them a richer flavor than when they were freshly harvested, even if they were slightly liquified. I tested this theory on grapes that had raisined on the vine in my native California. It was true. He was onto something. There are some good flavors and terrific sensations out there.
I’ve found that almonds on the tree are just as fresh in March as they were the previous September. There is no mold, no liquefaction. Occasionally I find a worm but I just throw those nuts away. I don’t worry about pesticide residues. I reason that if the nut is so well protected that even six months of rotting molds can’t get to it, pesticides don’t have a chance. And, as far as I know, my daughter doesn’t have any birth defects beyond the disadvantage of being my daughter. (She will tell you, that’s enough to deal with.)
I understand that food safety is a hot topic these days. I suppose if a Ph.D. candidate needed a thesis for a degree he could probably find trace amounts of a deleterious compound in my rained-on raw almonds. Then Mother Jones would have one more thing to attack, and real mothers would have another thing to fear.
I’m happy, though, to continue to experiment and learn about the good stuff. Someone probably said a life lived in fear is not a life lived. And Nietzshe said something like “if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger.” I’ll just keep on trying new gleanings, and, with a little luck, I might even outlive Euell Gibbons.