Sustainable chef Alexandra Dudley, recently went visited Orchards in the Central Valley in California. It seems there is no limit to the many ways in which this wondrous nut can be enjoyed, and not just as a super nutritious food. As a sustainable chef, I always like to know that what I’m snacking on is good for the planet in some way. A handful of almonds are not only a sustainable option; it’s also a nutrient-dense snack that I can eat on the go to help tide me over until my next meal.
Over in California (producer of 80% of the world’s almonds), the California almond community is pushing the boundaries of what can be done with this unassuming nut, as part of their journey to becoming a zero waste snack. In fact, the almond itself is just 30% of the grown product, with the hulls and shells – which protect the nut as it grows – being valuable products in their own right.
There are approximately 6, 8000 growers in California – those who shell, pack or process the almonds. The majority of almond farms in California are few than 100 acres and nearly 90% are family farms, many operated by third and fourth generation family growers.
Flower pots and car tyres
Researchers are exploring the concept of using modified almond shells to strengthen recycled plastic, for use in things like dinnerware and plant pots, and as additives for improving car tyres.
Almond hulls are a good source of natural sugars, so researchers have extracted those for use in brewing beer and hard ciders.
Almond hulls are bursting with nutrients, making them an excellent choice of dairy feed. Researchers are also looking at how they can be used to feed insects which are used for poultry feed and aquaculture.
Almond shells are used as livestock bedding, keeping animals dry and comfortable.
A typical almond tree has a 25 year lifecycle, and once it can no longer produce almonds, the tree is pulled up and used to create electricity through a process called cogeneration.
Alexandra Dudley is working with The Almond Board of California to highlight how almond are on a journey to zero waste