Going Nuts

Going Nuts
Perro and our nuts

When I first moved back to Sydney, I'd have to admit I was a little out of my playground. I had just moved in with a new flame who was 10 years my senior, and she had been used to a lifestyle that would be foreign to most Aussie's from the bush, even if the bush backed onto the surf.

As you'd do I was sitting in a cafe in Rose Bay, trying to fit in. Rose Bay for those not in the know is a Eastern Sydney suburb, renowned for its well-to-do set and accepted high society. Neighboring the famous blonde sands of Bondi Beach and purple rinse brigade of flashy Double Bay. Rose Bay was once the base for the Catalina Flying Boats that explored the pacific but now it wouldn't be out of place to see a seaplane take off from its sheltered bay, bound for one of the "to be seen in" restaurants of the Hawkesbury River. Rose Bay is a place that has a high percentage of Rolls Royce's, Ferraris and other luxury go carts parked in the driveways of the old money mansions, so needless to say, my little silver Holden Barina stood like a pimple on a magnolia.

To fit in, I thought I'd try something gourmet. "I'll have an almond croissant please and a cafe latte". The person who tried to take our order, looked down towards us in dismay or perhaps distain. "What would you like SIR?" An Almond croissant please! The issue being, I was ordering an AMOND not ALLMOND croissant.

From then on the "L" was silent and the café latte has now become a café con leche.

Little did I imagine that close to 30 years later that we'd (that's AJ and I), be hitting our own almond trees with a stick to harvest our own tear drop shaped nuts in the Alpujarra. (FYI the the old flame kicked me out 3 months after moving to the big smoke)

The almonds were our first real decent crop we had the chance to harvest, coming on a little earlier then the olives. Our pears and apples at that stage needed a little bit of loving before that gave us a good crop and we missed the cherry season by a couple of weeks, when we arrived in June.

It doesn't take long to work out if you are doing something right or wrong based on the feedback you get from the locals. For us we are getting better and better at harvesting. Now when I hit the tree I do so with the hope that the almonds head in the general direction of AJ. Or, as this time of the year is generally windy, we just head through the almond groves after the wind has finished, collecting the nuts off the ground before the rodents and wild boar have had their chance to graze over the windfall bounty.

Racing to beat the rodents

Our view down the mountain takes in the Contraviesa, a mountain range sitting stuck between the Sierra Nevada and the Mediterranean. It has mile upon mile of almond orchards and at the end of winter each year, these orchards are awash with the whites and pinks of the blossom. You'd be forgiven for thinking it had recently snowed when you see the blossoms lose their grip on their branches and float, dream like to the ground.

Almond orchard looking east

This year is only our second almond harvest, as the 2022 crop was impacted by the Sahara dusts storms and rain during the start of the year making the blossoms useless. Hopefully we will get close to one hundred kilos from our trees and those of our Scottish neighbors who have left them for us to harvest.

Sahara dust storm

After we have let them dry for a couple of weeks, we get cracking on the cracking. We have tried a few ways to release the golden kernel from its hard outer crust. The tool of choice is a simple rock. Heavy enough to make the crack but light enough not to crush your fingers when they get in the way.

Tools of the trade

Sitting outside with the autumn sun on your back, Perro snoozing at our feet, cracking almonds as the birds sing there song, this is surely living the dream.