We’re big fans of almond and other nut trees in gardens, particularly if you’re trying to build a permaculture system. Even though they’re not really fruit, they’re definitely one of the trees to consider when you’re planning what to plant.

We’ve written about almonds before here and you can find out more about how to create a permaculture system here.

Apart from the orchards on our farm, we also have a pretty big garden. We grow a wide variety of fruit and nut trees, including 8 almond trees (2 each of 4 different varieties) under net.

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. The third test is to eat a couple of almonds and see how they taste.

Long grass under the trees can make it hard to find any almonds that have fallen to the ground
Long grass under the trees can make it hard to find any almonds that have fallen to the ground

In past years we’ve found fallen almonds are a pain to find in the grass. This is particularly true if we’ve let it grow quite long underneath the almond trees (which we’ve been guilty of, many times).

This year we tried a new experiment with turning the jungle into more controlled understorey.

We had varying degrees of success in terms of (a) getting understorey plants established, and (b) keeping the weeds (especially couch grass and kukuyu) under control. We’ll bring you the results in another blog.

However, one thing that definitely worked was making the process of picking up fallen nuts from the ground 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.

Variety 1 in our almond block - possibly Canadian Papershell (glasses for size comparison)
Variety 1 in our almond block – possibly Canadian Papershell (glasses for size comparison)

Our eight trees supply us with enough nuts for eating all year. Plus we grind some into almond meal to use in cooking, as we make a lot of gluten-free meals.

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 labels.

Variety 2 in our almond block - possibly Mission??
Variety 2 in our almond block – possibly Mission??

Yep, that means that we don’t know which variety is which.

This is one of the things we caution against in our Grow Great Fruit program — so please, do as we say, not as we do!

We’ve previously attempted to identify the different varieties. As you can see from the photos of these three varieties, they’re all quite different.

We planted pollinisers together, so variety 2 is probably either Ne Plus Ultra, Mission or IXL (as they are pollinisers of California Papershell).

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.

Variety 3 in our almond block - possibly Brandes Jordan or Chellaston
Variety 3 in our almond block – possibly Brandes Jordan or Chellaston

Varieties #3 and #4 were also chosen because they pollinise each other.

The likelihood is that they are Brandes Jordan and Chellaston, but we have no idea which is which.

Over the years we’ve realised that it doesn’t really matter. They ripen close enough to the same time to be able to pick them all together. They’re all delicious, and are all similar in the way they store and taste.

So we’ve decided that it doesn’t really matter.

But we do recommend that you keep better records than we’ve managed to!

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