Inside the almond story: a Volos adventure

February 24th, 2007

velos.jpg

He waved an arm toward the valley beyond us, saying… “About 1,500 hectares in almonds here, along with olive trees and some pasture”. The sheep behind me, bleating in an off-key chorus, were the only other beings that I could see for miles around. Our guide, George, was at the wheel after this ‘vista stop’ on a morning’s tutorial. The subject: almonds. The place: central Greece, a five hour bus ride north of Athens. And the season: February, when almonds begin to bloom. This professor of Pomology at the University in Volos is an expert on the almond and all sorts of other fruits and nuts. His father and grandfather had large fruit groves and worked the land in these temperate valleys; I was in good hands to learn more about this Mediterranean ingredient. Studies that George (Dr. Nanos) and his colleagues had done on irrigation in almond groves and other production research were posted on the internet, and led me to contact him about a possible visit. The adventure was lined up for the second week in February, a bit early for full almond blossom time. What luck – trees were in full boom two weeks early! After our three days in almond heaven, my head was spinning with not only facts, but strong visual impressions of stunning settings: mountains silhouetted against the horizon, tidy harbors in the foreground, and rich valley land stretching in between crossroads and villages. There is more to this almond adventure, not to mention the gooey pastry-sampling story to be told.