Introduction of a Nut

By Christopher Zoukis

Almonds were introduced to America by Miquel Josep Serra iFerrer, who was born in Majorca, Spain.  When he finally arrived in California, he was Fray Junipero Serra, a priest in the Order of St. Francis.  He came to California to administer the missions on the Baja California Peninsula.  This system of missions had been founded by the Jesuits, who, because of their political intrigues, had just been forcibly kicked out of “New Spain” by King Carlos III. 

Father Serra brought along a bag of almond plantings, which he planted and attempted to grow.  His attempts failed, because the damp coastal fogs and high humidity of the area were not favorable to almond cultivation.  Image courtesy sfmuseum.net

Meanwhile, far across America, ranchers in New England and the Middle Atlantic States decided to try and grow almonds commercially.  At the same time, down in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado other ranchers were making the same attempt.  These ranchers thought that almonds should grow wherever peaches did.  It seemed only natural, since they were genetically similar.  It didn’t work.  Almonds bloom early and late frosts destroyed the harvests.  And if the frost didn’t get the almonds, because of the relative high humidity, disease did.  The venture was discarded as a waste of time.

Read More