The almond tree doesn’t mind the cold. In January the gnarled, leafless tree begins to bloom, its pinkish white flowers providing nectar for the wild bees.
The almond belongs to the peach family and grows wild in Israel, reaching a height of 4.5 to 6 meters.
The fruit is a drupe – that is, it has a soft, fleshy part around an inner stone that contains the seed. When it ripens, its dry or woody husk splits into two halves.
The unripe, greenish fruits are a delicacy to some, but most people prefer the dried stone - the almond we know so well, eaten either salted or ground into a sugary pulp known as Marzipan.
Almonds were important in Bible times.
Almond buds and blossoms modeled for the Tabernacle’s candelabra. Aaron’s rod miraculously sprouted leaves and almond blossoms at the same time - God’s sign he and his tribe was chosen as priests. During the seven years of famine, Jacob sent almonds to the Egyptian ruler – a delicacy for them.
Dried fruits were either ground into a paste or used for their oil, and were an exclusive cooking ingredient in Roman times. The almond’s bitter taste was removed by cooking them in water; the husks were used as fuel.
In Ecclesiastes, the almond symbolizes old age - its white blossoms are reminiscent of white hair.
The biblical town Luz, mentioned in Genesis 28:19, is probably called like this because their hills abounded with almond trees.
The root from the Hebrew word shaked – almond - is the word shoked, meaning to watch diligently or to wait.
In Jeremiah, Israel’s watchman, it’s used as wordplay. The LORD asks him, what he sees.
“An almond (shaked) tree-branch”, he answers.
The LORD replies, “I will watch (shoked) over my word to perform it.”