Thursday, September 17, 2009

Almonds don't grow in the Pacific Northwest

Massa Organics (rice and almonds) at the Ferry Plaza farmers' market in San Francisco.

One quick Internet transaction and look what my snail mail letter carrier delivered!
I often hear customers at Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards ask if they also grow almonds. The person at the booth always shakes her head and smiles.
Almonds, our oldest cultivated nuts and relative of peaches, plums and apricots, have a long history and can be traced back to archaeological sites in ancient Greece. These nuts require a long growing season, and the cool damp maritime climate in the Pacific Northwest just doesn't do it. But the climate in California is just perfect for them. In fact eighty percent of the world's almond crop grows in California.

It's an intense crop and in 2006, I wrote at article about honey bees for PCC Natural Market's Sound Consumer and I discovered that almond farmers rent all available beehives in California, plus 80 percent of the hives around the country and every February, convoys of trucks from 38 states, wind their way to the almond groves.

I never really thought much about the almond butter I bought at natural food stores but when my daughter and I visited my niece in San Francisco, I was overwhelmed by a giant picture of an almond orchard in bloom when we stopped at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market. The market was crowded and fun and all kinds of different booths intrigued me. One was Massa Organics, a rice farm that also sold almond butter. I got 4 pounds of rice and a jar of almond butter. It was love at first bite with the almond butter. I'd never go back to the variety offered by my natural foods store.

Okay I know farmers grow walnuts and hazelnuts here, but living a strictly locavore life isn't for me because it's simply too puritanical. I often think many people in our culture are so spoiled by food abundance we have little awareness of other people in the world who might eat anything available. When some people don't even have access to clean water to drink, it's ridiculous and petty to stress over whether or not you ate a banana, indulged in a slice of bread or enjoyed a steak.

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