The Almond tree has been referred to by Spenser in the Fairy Queen:
‘Like to an Almond tree mounted hye,
On top of greene Selinis all alone,
With blossoms brave bedecked daintly;
Whose tender locks do tremble every one
At every little breath that under Heaven is blown.’
Although the almond tree is native to the Mediterranean region, this beautiful tree has adapted to the climate of Kashmir. Big and shady, these trees grow up to a height of 15m and have large oval leaves tinged with red and fleshy fruits. These fruits to turn bright red from green during the mature phase. The fruits of the almond tree are very aromatic and sweet. Almonds are considered the healthiest nuts to eat because they have the highest protein content of any nut. Almonds are also a rich source of calcium and many minerals, such as potassium and phosphorous. Almonds help in lowering cholesterol levels and contain oleic acid, which helps maintain a healthy heart.
There are two types of almond tree: bitter and sweet. Almonds grown in Kashmir tend to be slightly bitter but the sweet ones are imported into India from Afghanistan in great quantities.
The almond in Kashmir is synonymous with romance in Kashmir. Ancient Indian literature depicts heroines as someone having dark almond shaped eyes which symbolize beauty and appeal. The heart suit in a pack of playing cards is often called badam or almond in many Indian languages. The Mughals were great patrons of art and lovers of cuisines. As a matter of fact the almond was introduced into Indian cookery by the Mughals. They also contributed a lot to the increase in the use of the almond motif in textiles, weaving and sculpture.