Dicing with Dodgy Almonds

and-bitter-almondsDespite the drought, the countryside behind the coast is covered with almond trees at least bearing some fruit. Unfortunately, some can kill you.

Wild almonds, or bitter almonds, are trees that have spontaneously grown and haven’t been grafted. These kinds of almonds contain glycoside amygdalin – doesn’t sound dangerous? Well when your body processes it, it turns to hydrogen cyanide – yup, that sound dangerous, because it is.

Got any doubts? Well hydrogen cyanide was a key element in Zyklon B.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much of the stuff to kill you; between 100 and 200 mg will kill you within minutes: around 1.3 mg per kilo of body weight.

Now that doesn’t help much, does it, unless you know how much an individual almond contains.

Each raw almond, depending on its size, contains between 4 mg and 9 mg mg. So if you’re around 60 kilos and you eat twenty good size ones, it’s, adiós y buenas noches, Señores. Fewer and you will have kidney failure. In fact, according to Encyclopedia Brittanica, as few as seven to ten unprocessed bitter almonds can be lethal.

Of course, even if you eat sweet edible ones that you’ve found on somebody’s land, you stand a chance of the farmer blasting you with a shotgun, because they’re expensive owing to their drought-induced scarcity.

So it’s probably safer just to buy some. However, on a more positive note, you’d have to be very determined to get through a dozen bitter almonds, let alone 20, as they taste horrible. Another matter is if you fry or roast them, as the toxic content is eliminated.

So, if you’ve got visitors out from the UK, Germany, France or wherever, and are gloriously waving your arms about up in the campo, extolling how wonderful it is to live in Andalusia, don’t point them towards a nut-laden almond tree with a shopping bag to fill and then take back with them, because they might just be visiting the hospital, if they’re lucky or the morgue, if not.

(News: Province of Granada, Andalucia)

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