Almond. Juan Manuel Sanz/ © ICEX
Spain is the world's second largest producer of almonds, which grow all over the Spanish Mediterranean regions - in Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, the Balearic Islands, Andalusia, and Aragón.
Spain also has a long-established tradition in almond exports. It was the Spanish colonizers who first took almonds to the American continent after the discovery of the New World. Today, Spain is the world's second largest exporter, with most almond exports going to the European Union, the world's top consumer.
Unlike the almonds from other larger producer countries, the varieties grown in Spain mostly have a hard shell, with a smaller nut than the soft-shelled varieties and a higher oleic acid content. Most cultivation is on small, dry-farmed orchards which are less productive than extensive, irrigated orchards. But Spanish almonds are of outstanding quality because of their high oil content which makes them moister and more flavorsome. More than one hundred almond varieties grow in Spain but there are five main commercial types - Marcona, Largueta, Planeta, Valencias or Common Almond and Majorca. The first three are native of Spain.
Approximately one third of the crop is used as an ingredient for turrón, marzipan and other sweets, and Spanish almonds are always used in the production of the highest-quality turrón and marzipan.
Almonds protected by a hard white sugar coating and known as peladillas are a traditional Spanish Christmas treat. Another specialty are garrapiñadas, almonds coated with caramelized sugar. Almonds are also used in some sauces, such as the Catalonian romesco and picada, and are an essential ingredient in gallina en pepitoria , an old-time Spanish chicken recipe.