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Monday, September 29, 2014

Almond by-products


When people think of almond uses they tend to just think of using the almond meat. Almonds have multiple by-products actually. When almonds are processed at the huller the almond meat is separated from the hull and shell. The hulls, shells and hash are also sold and used.

Almond Hulls
Almond hulls are the green out most layer of the almond while on the tree. The hull is what splits and starts the countdown to harvest. Once the almond has dried in the field, the hull also dries and begins to separate from the almond. At the huller, they remove the hulls and stock pile them until sold. Almond hulls are sold for animal feed, most commonly dairy feed. The hulls actually add nutrition to the animals diet and aid in healthy milk production. Growing up on my family's farm, we used the hulls to feed our breeding sheep. It was cheaper than grain, helped to add nutrition to the animal diet and while filled them up faster.
Almond Shells
Almond hash

Almond shells are the hard layer between the hull and the almond meat. The shell is what protects the almond from insects while on the tree. After the shell is removed from the meat at the huller, it is also used. Almond shells can be ground up and used as bedding for garden planters and landscape material similar to wood chips. Almond shells are most commonly sold to co-generation plants to be used as a fuel source.

Almond hash is the material discarded during the shelling process when there may be nicks or flaws on the meat. These bits and pieces of almonds are separated and also used for animal feed. The hash is sold for higher end animal feed than the hulls and can be added to grain feed.

Next time you look at an almond orchard, think about all the uses for the fruit!

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Almond Huller & Sheller

 Our almond huller is running in full swing, so I thought I would go and check it out! We belong to a cooperative huller, meaning the farmers who use its services own an interest in the huller.  A select few farmers who are members of the cooperative are also elected on the board of directors. Most of the hullers in our southern Central Valley region of California are cooperatives. We also have a few large corporations and small growers in our region that operate private hullers as well.

The huller has received over half of all almonds that it will this year, but some have to wait in stock piles to be run at a later date. When the farmer is done harvesting and picking up the almonds from the field, they haul them to the huller in semi truck trailers. When the trucks arrive, the almonds are weighed and either sent to be processed or stock piled until the huller can run them. They fumigate and tarp the stock piles to keep the almonds safe from any insects or rain that may hurt the almonds  while they are waiting to be hulled and shelled.
Stock piles waiting to be hulled and shelled
Semi from the field dumping almonds to be hulled


When it's time to run the almonds through the huller, the almonds are dumped into a giant pit to remove any excess sticks and foreign material. Once the almonds are separated, they are run through a series of shaking trays and rollers that remove the outer layer called the hull.
At our huller, the almonds can either go to further processing to remove the shell or can be left in-shell. In-shell is a newer marketing trend in which some of the foreign countries that buy the almonds will then use their own labor to remove the shell, providing more jobs in their own country.  The second option is removing the shell by cracking it and separating out the almond meat. This may lead to mechanical defects on the softer almond varieties. These almonds with defects are separated and sold as hash.

 
Almonds to be cleaned from foreign material

Sticks separated from almonds

Shaking belt
Almonds being sorted for defects
Trays carrying the almonds to be shelled
Finished almonds!
 Once the final almonds are separated and the hull and shell is removed, they are poured into wooden bins to be transported to further processing. At the processor, they will be pasteurized for human consumption as required by USDA and further packaged to be sold in the many different forms we find them in the grocery store.

 Until Next Time,
Almond Girl 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Falling Ground Water Table

We lost suction on one of our agriculture wells. The ground water table has dropped below where our pump was set. So, when we turned on our pump to irrigate our orchard, it was pumping air instead of water. We had to have the well maintenance company pull the well out of the ground and inspect the pump to determine the cause of lose of suction. It was determined our pump was too short for where the water table had fallen. Now, we have to extend the pump at least 40 feet further down, so we can pump from the water table. We hope that this will work and we will be able to pump water again.
 

Because of the drought, we have neighbors all around us drilling new wells. Farms are also pumping more from existing wells because we can't draw from federal or state water. Both these factors cause a greater dependency on ground water, causing our water table to fall deeper.  
Pray for Rain!!

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Almond varieties

Did you know there are over 30 different varieties of almonds grown commercially?! All have their own unique purpose, size, and shape. Most almond farmers, have multiple varieties in the same orchard, the most popular being nonpareil. Nonpareil is the prettiest almond, most widely produced and comes with the biggest return back to the grower. But we can't all farm nonpareils, they need to be pollinated somehow. Almonds typically need at least two varieties in an orchard because the almond flower cannot pollinate itself like other fruit trees can. We learned about that with the almond bloom and bee blog!! So we have pollinator varieties that complement other varieties and offer their own unique purpose. I am going to outline a few of the more widely grown varieties for you, but feel free to check out The Almond Board of California's full guide.


Nonpareil has the most uses and purposes of any other nut. It can be used in raw form, blanched, processed or anything you wish. It is a soft shell variety, meaning the shell will be easy to remove. Nonpareil is the first variety to be harvested and kicks off the harvest season.
Carmel is a pollinator for Nonpareil. Carmel is generally used for manufacturing or processing  purposes like baking ingredients. It is also a soft shell, has a more narrow shape than a nonpareil and the skin appears more wrinkly. Carmel harvest will begin after nonpareil harvest.
Monterey is also a pollinator for nonpareil. It is a large and narrow almond with a smooth surface. And harvest will follow Carmel and Butte.
Sonora is a soft shell almond that is commonly recognized by its long, narrow shape and light skin color. It is the largest almond variety.
Butte and padre varieties are hard shell varieties, meaning their shell is harder to remove. This can cause more mechanical defects to the nut, making it ideal for manufacturing as well. They are shorter and smaller nuts, most commonly found in your nutty chocolate bar because of its size and slight bitter taste. Butte and padre are commonly harvested alongside or slightly later than Carmel.


Now you know an almond isn't just an almond. Next time you take a handful of almonds or bite into your favorite almond snack, try to guess what variety you are eating!


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl