The Sweet Almond is a shrubby tree which was probably introduced here in ancient times because of its edible fruit. And today it is found growing in our valleys and maquis.
Known scientifically as Prunus dulcis, and in Maltese as is-Siġra tal-Lewż this tree may grow to a height of around seven meters and supports rather intricate branches. The young twigs are greenish at first, becoming purplish then grey when exposed to sunlight. During the growing season the slightly serrated leaves are shed.
In winter, just before the growth of the foliage, the Almonds’ first blooms appear, spectacularly announcing the arrival of the New Year with symmetrically beautiful flowers of a pure white or pale pink colour. Following fertilisation, the fruits, known as drupes, are borne. Upon maturity, the grey-green fleshy fruit splits open to reveal the hard-pitted shell of the almond nut inside.
In general, there are two forms of almond trees, one producing bitter almonds and the other producing the sweet edible almonds.
The almond nut is a component of various Maltese dishes ranging from sugar coated almonds (perlini) to almond pastries (figolli) and ice-cream. Apart from the fact that they are delicious, almonds are also a very rich source of vitamin E.