Currently dotting the Algarve landscape, almond trees are exploding in pinks and white with their leaves now adding green to the tapestry.
It is said that one of Van Gogh’s favourite subjects was almond blossom and currently a painting, entitled Almond Blossom, is on show at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
With the blossom continuing through March, the nuts will only be harvested in summer. They are then dried in the sun to provide the wealth of products made locally. Pastries, cakes and savoury dishes all use almond in one form or another.
Local products include doces finos (decorative “marzipan” treats in the shape of fruit/vegetables and animals), queijo de figo (not a cheese at all but a small, dense mixture of figs and almonds) and Dom Rodrigo (a mixture of almond with egg sugar).
We must also mention Amêndoa Amarga, a liqueur made from bitter almonds and similar in taste to the Italian Amaretto.
It is worth noting that the trees with pink blossom yield bitter almonds whilst the white blossom yield sweet ones. So best check now which tree you are likely to pick nuts from later in the year!
Apart from the optimum growing conditions legend has it that there is another reason as to why Algarve has so many almond trees.
When the region was ruled by the Moors, the young king Ibn-Almundim fell in love with Gilda, a Nordic princess. He won her heart and they married but as time passed, she became homesick and fell into depression.
In desperation, the King ordered the planting of almond trees across the whole of Al-Garb (Algarve) so that the following spring, when looking out across the countryside, Gilda saw a blanket of white resembling the snow-covered fields of her homeland.
Whether you enjoy painting, walking or eating the Algarve almond trees certainly offer something for everyone.