Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Almond Taxonomy: Or How Dogs Are Closer To Cats Than Almonds Are To Walnuts

We're putting on our Mr. Wizard hats today, and doing a little science.

Cats and dogs are closer to each other than almonds are to walnuts. Pretentious people everywhere call cats Felis catus (it's really not a Monty Python joke!). Cats are of the family Felidae and the order Carnivora. Dogs, Canis lupus familiaris, are of the family Canidae, and same order as cats, Carnivora.

Got that? Carnivora, at the "order" level, is the umbrella that dogs and cats share. Cute picture.

Almonds, Prunus amygdalus, are from the Rosaceae family and the Rosales order. Walnuts, Juglans regia, are of the Juglandaceae family and the Fagales order. So we have to go up one more level than dogs and cats to the Rosid clade to get an umbrella over both almonds and walnuts.

Well, that and a quarter will get you over the bridge at Keokuk.

Almonds are more closely related to peaches and other stone fruits. Notice the word "prune" hidden in their Latin name. An almond -- called a "drupe" -- is a seed, inside the fruit of an almond tree.

The fruit's flesh, we have read, is tough and fuzzy, and, looking at pictures, about as thick as an almond. That doesn't sound appetizing, and we've been to a lot of lavishly stocked grocery stores and never seen almond fruit.

But inside that leathery hide, crack open the stone, and there's a tasty, nutritious kernel of goodness. And Barsy's Almonds seasons and bakes ten tons of them -- and growing --  each year for you.

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