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Our Local Almonds

At Producers we grow a range of Almonds some from forgotten stock and others the commerically popular varieties.  We asked our local Almond grower and enthusiast from Blue Cottage Almonds to help identify our old trees.  Some we don't know but possible American, those we are sure about are also grown by one of the few remaining commercial Almond growers in Willunga, here is the story as told by Jude with Almond Biscuit recipe following:

The 3 varieties of almonds grown by Blue Cottage Almonds have all been determined to be actual separate varieties by genetic mapping undertaken by Waite Institute, Adelaide University. They originate from European hardshell varieties rather than the smaller American papershell varieties which are most commonly grown and sold here. These varieties make up about 1% of the total almond plantings in Australia. It would be a tragedy if these varieties were lost – they are part of the genetic bio-diversity of our district – not to mention the history!

Johnston Almonds

Johnston almonds were originally grown as a variety by the Johnstons of Pirramimma Wines fame. Like many McLaren Vale vignerons the Johnston family were originally almond growers in the district in the early part of last century.

Johnstons have a very hard cream coloured shell with a large coarse almost corrugated brownskin kernel. Because of the skin the almond has great flavour especially when roasted or used in baking. The kernels also blanch very readily and the blanched kernel divides easily into the classic almond halves so beloved of cooks to put on top of Christmas cakes.

Somerton Almonds

The story goes that this almond was originally discovered by a grower called Eric Lacey whose family now have very substantial almond orchards in the Riverland. Eric had a prolific tree in his then Somerton Park orchard that seemed to be different from the rest of the row. He went into Charlesworth Nuts –an Adelaide institution – with a few kernels to see what the buyer thought. Excellent was the response so Eric began growing more of them!

Somerton almonds are quite smooth skinned and have a very creamy texture and a delicious flavour. They are our most popular almond and we sell most of them as natural almonds to people who regularly eat raw almonds as part of their diet.

Parkinson Almonds

This is a very recent addition to the known local Willunga varieties and was discovered in much the same way as the Somerton – growing by itself in the Parkinson’s orchard! It is a prolific tree – hard to establish but worth the effort.

Parkinson almonds have a very hard almost white shell. The kernels are long and cylindrical in shape with a sweet milky kernel. They are wonderful for confectionery almonds – sugared, cinnamon etc but also great just raw.

Almond Biscuits

  • 200g ground almonds (grind freshly or use almond meal)
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 3 eggwhites, at room temperature, whisked
  • 24 whole blanched almonds

Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Place ground almonds, sugar and flour into a bowl. Stir to combine. Add eggwhites. Mix well.

Shape mixture into balls, 1 tablespoonful at a time. Place onto baking trays. Place an almond onto centre of each ball. Press down to flatten slightly. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until light golden. Cool on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container.

 

Chewy almond biscuits

Photographs by Karen Reynolds and Luke Burgess