The last pure-white petals are being blown
away one by one on the breeze, as if they were snowflakes.
We are almost at the end of probably the
most spectacular natural event that we can enjoy every winter
here, the splendid blooming of the almond tree.
For the last two months they have sensitively
covered and decorated our dry fields with an intense explosion
of the pure white or slightly pink petals of the almond tree
These days as you take a walk in an almond
tree plantation and see them all around falling down, if it
wasn't because of its nice sweet aroma, the temperature and
the shining sun, you would swear that you were in the middle
of a snowstorm. When you look at these plantations from the
distance, at the right moment, it is inevitable to compare
them with the snow-white continental winter fields.
This phenomenal yearly event starts (more
or less, depending on the weather conditions) with the New
Year (sometimes we can see the first flowers as a Christmas
present) and it reaches its peak in February's full moon.
The Ibicencos say that February's full moon, or what's the
same, the almond-tree-flower-full-moon are the most clear
and bright nights of the year.
The ones who have been lucky enough to see
it know that this is very true. The almond trees, with all
the branches completely covered in flowers (the leaves will
come after, as soon as the tree loses the flowers) look like
soft and white clouds that reflect the moonlight of our clear
and almost unpolluted winter sky.
In these conditions, it is possible to spot
a person walking in the fields by the countryside at night
without any artificial light, well over a kilometre away.
Because of this coincidence, the beauty
of the almond tree blooming, the full moon and the extreme
peace and serenity of this time of the year (this is the time
of the year with less people on the Island and the nerves
of the tourist season are still "far"), make of
February's full moon the favourite and the most inspiring
time for our poets and poetesses.
To celebrate this magnificent event, a group
of local poets and writers started about twelve years ago
to visit "Es Pla de Corona" (*) every February's
full moon night to party, play music and to read poetry that
was especially written for the occasion. Not surprisingly,
the moon and the almond tree flowers are normally the most
This group of about twenty five or thirty
people at the beginning was increasing every year until reaching
several hundreds in a few years, becoming one of the most
important and crowded popular events of our winter nights
and the most anticipated, especially for the intellectual
society of Eivissa.
For the first five or six years, all the
poetry written for the occasion and read by the authors at
these full-moon-and-petal-parties was edited and published
in a yearly book ("A la llum dels ametllers," Quaderns
de Literatura, Consell Insular d'Eivissa i Formentera) by
the "Conselleria de Cultura" of the Local Government.
The almond tree's been glorified by our
most sensitive poets, but in my opinion there is still something
more that can be said and perhaps we would all like to know
a little bit more about the almond tree. Let's do it as a
little homage to its graces.
"Prunus amygdalus" Stokes, "Prunus
communis", "Prunus dulcis" and "Amygdalus
communis"-Linné are the four scientific names
for this tree, a plant of the "Rosaceous family",
the same as the peach, apricot, pear, apple, cherry or the
plum tree, as well as the rose tree, the blackberry or the
strawberry, as some of the most representative plants of this
The almond tree is the largest of them all,
at least in our Islands, where it can reach up to ten metres
or even more, with a thick and rough cracked trunk which can
reach more then two meters around it, though the common size
is five to eight metres high and a metre or less around the
trunk. It is also the one that takes longest to mature its
fruits, eight months, from January till August-September.
It is originally from the Middle East and
Northern-African countries, where it can be found wild, but
it was spread and used in most of the Mediterranean countries
even before historical times.
The almond tree doesn't tolerate very low
temperatures, as it blossoms in the beginning of the winter.
Even here it can lose its future fruits if the temperature
drops enough for us to have frost, the ice can dry and kill
the flower or the new-born almond in two or three nights,
so this fact limits its spread to the Mediterranean countries
and more recently other areas in different Continents with
similar weather conditions, such as California, USA, Viña
del Mar, Chile, South-Africa, etc.
There are two different kinds of almond
trees, the bitter and the sweet, each one of them, especially
the sweet, with quite a few different varieties.
The bitter-almond-tree is the one we use
for planting, because of its adaptability, stronger resistance
and faster growing. We plant it in the autumn from a bitter
almond. Two or three years later, the new plant will be removed
to its defined location and engrafted with the graft of whatever
variety of sweet almond tree wanted.
The bitter almonds used to be sold to the
pharmaceutical industry to produce bitter-almond-oil, because
of its components and also to produce a good variety of sweets,
cakes and liquors.
This oil is obtained by distillation of
the almond and it possesses "Amigdalina" compost
of 95% of "benzaldehido" and from 2 to 4% of "cyanhidric
acid," which is very poisonous (it has the classic cyanide
smell) and it has to be eliminated from the oil to be used
as an aliment (twenty bitter almonds, if eaten, can be enough
to kill a person. In the old days, there were several formulas
of mixing five to twenty bitter-almonds with food to kill
foxes, wild dogs and cats Discóredes Book 1 Chapter
139). The bitter-almond-oil is known as "benzaldehido",
most of us have tried it, when we eat marzipan for example.
(*) "Es Pla de Corona"
"Es Pla de Corona" is by the little
village of Santa Agnés, Northwest of Eivissa. It is
a flat area, almost round, nowadays all planted with almond-trees,
surrounded all around by hills that form like a crown to those
flat lands ("Corona" = Crown).
This was the old name for this area,
before the church in honour to Santa Agnés was build
in the neighbourhood. The name of "Corona" is still
used by the older Ibicenco people, but to most, this area
is known now as "Santa Agnés de Corona".
"Es Pla de Corona"
"Qui no hagi anat a Corona
cap any pel mes de febrer
no sap el que és cosa bona...
no sap bé el que es perd,
perqué els ametllers floreixen
pel pla de Santa Agnés...
fan un núvol rosa y blanc,
un perfum tan penetrant
que el que hi vagi el primer any
espere impacient tot l'any
que torni el proper febrer."
Maria Neus Planells i Molina, Eivissa, 1990.
"A la llum dels ametllers"
Quaderns de Literatura.
Almond trees In Bloom
Picture Copyright © Gary Hardy
To be continued in two weeks.
José P Ribas