If you’re ever stranded on a deserted island it might be a good idea to bring along an almond tree… We’d probably also invite Bear Grylls (but that’s totally up to you).
Almond trees thrive in arid, unaccommodating conditions. All they need to flourish is a little water in their early years when the saplings are sown and some occasional pruning to encourage them to spread. These criteria make them a perfect match for the parched terracotta landscape of inland Majorca in the Balearic Islands.
Several native varieties mingle together across the sun-baked island but all share the traits of having great flavour, high nutritional value and an abundance of rich oil. The natural hardiness of the trees also means that there is a general lack of interest in pesticide among the island’s farming community. Last season Majorca’s working farms (a category which encompasses small scale growers all the way through to those renting large scale expanses of land) together collected 2500 tonnes of almonds.
The fruits these trees bear contain the brilliant, multi-purpose seeds we use here at Lush (almonds are actually seeds not nuts, as is commonly believed). Ground almonds are gentle, effective exfoliators, great for buffing away dead skin. Almond oil is also highly useful, packed full of vitamin E for powerful skin and hair conditioning. The skin readily absorbs the oil making it a fantastic base for cosmetics as it can carry fresh ingredients and nutrients from other oils into the epidermis.
Arriving in September, the Majorcan trees have shed their picturesque white-pink spring blossoms and the harvest is well underway.
In many plots almonds are still collected traditionally. Farmhands thwack the sturdy almond branches to spill the plentiful crop onto tight nets that are strewn across the ground. Increasingly though, farms – including one we recently visited outside Alaró – are mechanising and using tractors fitted with a large folding canopy. These reverse to fit up to the trunk and wings unfold from a clasp to shake and grip the tree. A screw then coaxes the almonds (stored in their natural shell to preserve freshness) from the canopy into an internal container.
A processing company with impressive technology assess many of the island’s almonds. Millions are sorted very quickly for quality, density and visual imperfection. To produce ground almonds, the seeds are cracked, examined for foreign objects like pebbles and then passed through two stages of metal detection. Rollers regularise shape and sieve to the required particle size before they pass a final metal detection test (it’s a bit like airport security) ready to be sent to us.
The visually imperfect almonds are used for our sweet almond oil, which is made from 100% Majorcan almonds from 100% traceable seeds. 40MT of broken almonds are collected in a hopper and fed through an oil expeller, crushed and combined with dry bran (to help the press grip each almond). Warming then encourages the good fats in the seeds to be freed before a squeeze under steadily increasing pressure releases a thick, fragrant crude oil. During filtration, the oil is centrifuged to separate out smaller particles. Finally, a four-phase refinement carefully removes phosolopids, pigment molecules, volatile compounds and waxes.
We at Lush believe that all almonds are created equally, which is why we’re so happy that the Majorcan factory utilises so much of the almond yield… even the dust created in grinding. We get all the super benefits of ground almonds and oils with the added benefit of knowing that nothing is going to waste.