A number of years ago, while travelling through Spain, I discovered Marcona almonds; a rather different and dare I say superior nut to the common or garden variety almond widely known in Australia. On my return I thought I might plant a few trees at the vineyard and made the rounds of local wholesale fruit tree nurseries in search of some. Unfortunately I was met with a blank stare, no one in Australia was familiar with the Marcona variety. Undaunted I began to phone around fruit tree grower associations and, lo and behold, eventually found a girl in the bud wood import section of the Department of Primary Industry in Adelaide who proudly announced they were about to release the first ever stocks of Marcona buds in Australia. “Great” I said, “I’ll take 50 buds please, for grafting myself”. I was promptly told, however, that I wasn’t eligible as I wasn’t a registered fruit tree grower. Problem solved; I simply rang a colleague who was registered and asked him to graft the trees for me. I had 50 trees delivered in 15 cm pots a year later. I planted a dozen out on the property and sold or gave the rest to anyone who was interested. And in so doing I became the FIRST person ever to have this variety in Australia.
As the years have passed I’ve been increasingly frustrated at my inability to protect the small crops from the marauding cockatoos who absolutely obliterate the embryonic nuts long before they are anywhere ready for harvest. So as it turns out I’m most likely NOT the first person to harvest Marcona here, others who planted later may well have been more successful.
This year was different though, nothing was going to stop me and I spent a small fortune in protective measures. So here, finally, are my first crop of Marcona almonds. On the right (pictured below) we have the just harvested husks and on the left the shelled kernels.
I only wish I had enough to share with visitors to the Wine Centre….but maybe next year!
By Garry Crittenden