The sun is shining, the birds are singing and, most spectacularly of all, the almond trees are all taking it in turns to ‘KA-BLOOM’ and give us what I would argue strongly is one of the wonders of the world.
By now we all surely know the lovely legend of the king who planted all these trees to create the illusion of snow for his nordic queen who was pining for the beauty of the winters in her homeland (although, if you don’t know, then feel free to check out my story online called ‘Loves Bloomin Popcorn’ that I wrote last year).
Gosh, it is lovely at the moment. You may have also noticed that there are also fields of those yellow flowers called Bermuda Buttercups that are quite literally 'highlighting' the landscape in a bright yellow. Indeed, it occurred to me the other day that the Algarve countryside at the moment might just be the only place you could conceivably camouflage yourself while wearing one of those bright fluorescent yellow jackets.
Now, I’ll level with you. I first started writing this story as an excuse to try and sneak a few pictures of this ‘bloomin' magic’ between the pages of The Portugal News. However, I don’t want you to feel like you read this far only for me to tell you how pretty everything is. I’m determined for this to be at least a little informative.
So, did you know?
That almond blossom comes in two different colours? There’s the classic white (that is what that king had in mind when he wanted to replicate snow for his homesick queen) but there’s also the stunning pink variety.
Now, beautiful as it may be, if you have almond trees you might like to stop and take note for another reason. You see, these pink ones are the bitter variety, or, what they call in Portuguese, ‘amargo’.
Of course, you are bound to find out later on if you taste them, but I think we can all agree, this is a much nicer way to find out.
Especially since, looking into this a little more, I found out you really don’t want to eat very many of these almonds as they contain high concentrations of cyanide. Something which, if you’ve ever watched much James Bond, will know can be lethal in high amounts.
But what are they good for?
They do lose their toxicity when cooked and are an ingredient in a Christmas fruitcake in Germany. They are also used to make marzipan and even a kind of sweet syrup in Greece. They can even be used to make soaps and perfumes. Here in Portugal they are used to make a bitter almond liqueur called Licor de Amêndoa Amarga.
So that's it for this year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to come up with another excuse to write about them next year. For now though, make sure you get out there for a walk in the countryside - before the wind blows it all off.