Snacking on a handful of almonds has been long considered a good way to enhance nutrition status when consuming a plant-based diet. Yet, we hardly ever think of how this small, delicious seed can have the power to impact our lives in more than one ways. Meeting Danielle Veenstra, Almond Board of California's Sustainability Communications Manager, we learned of the myriad ways in which Almond farming on the Golden Coast is purveying the way forward for global agriculture.
The Almond and Water Connection
Supplying approximately 80% of the world's almonds, farmers in California have strived to cut water usage through micro-irrigation technologies by a third for every pound of almonds harvested. Since 2016, Almond orchards have also been in the news for acting as a basin for excess flood water.
Along with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory [The Berkeley Lab] observing water veins in the soil by micro-cameras, the board has been looking for ways in which these farms could help recharge groundwater sources across greater California.
“The definition of sustainability, according to us, is a method that is economically sound but also environmentally responsible,” points Veenstra. “It is really innovative for farmers to be thinking this way; our models can be applied to others as well.” Surely, with global water shortages becoming an increasingly worrying issue, it is crucial that major crop producers do invest time in thinking about what Veenstra deems as the “broader impact of almond farming.” Indeed, the board's history of more than 40 years of research on water itself speaks volumes of their efforts.
It's A Bee Story too
And what about the undeniable connection between honey bee pollination and almond production? "Almond flowers are a major source of food for honey bees at the beginning of the year until they become able to pollinate other crops. Almond pollen has all ten amino acids for bees, making it highly nutritious,” explains Veenstra.
Almond farmers take their pollination partners’ needs very seriously,
by maximizing blossom forage and minimizing the impact of
pesticides amongst other Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMP). Veenstra further adds: “We rely very strongly on healthy honey bees,
and that is unique to our farming group, which is why we invest
in researching more on honey bee health."
Pushing for Zero Waste
The outer components of hull, shell and woody biomass that protect the inner almond seed can be put to several fascinating uses: providing feeds to livestock, brewing beer, strengthening biodegradable plastics or serving as a rich medium for farming mushrooms.
Moreover, not only do the trees trap carbon from the air as they grow, but they also prevent excessive release of carbon dioxide when recycled as compost into the soil. Indeed, with climate change clearly showing its effects much before
its estimated year of 2040, the global omnipresence of such a zero waste approach becomes ever more necessary.
Recipes From KABIRA
Clearly, almonds can be good for the earth and you too. Having a low glycemic index, along with being high in monounsaturated fats, protein, vitamin E and magnesium -- these little gems may help support many of your daily nutrient needs. Here are some ways to help you maintain the nuttiness all year round:
Fall & Chilly Winters | With Honey and Cinnamon
Good for: your bones, skin, immunity, digestion, and keeping warm
Fill up a bottled jar with real honey, whole almonds, and cinnamon powder and turn it upside down to ensure all the contents are uniformly mixed. A tablespoon full of this can be munched on anytime during the day as a snack, or even spooned directly over a bowl of plain oatmeal, for just right amount of crunch and sweetness.
Sunshine and Spring | With citrus and basil
Good for: serving a balanced appetizer, getting 2 servings of whole fruits and staying cool.
When the temperature gets warmer, it doesn't mean that you steer clear from nuts altogether. Try tossing in a bunch of sliced almonds into a salad with mandarins, fresh basil and low-fat, low sodium feta cheese. In fact, the fruit component could vary as per the season: apricots during May-July, melons from June to October and figs in Fall.
Learn More About the Almond Life Cycle