No, this post is not about the Thanksgiving antics of eccentric relatives. Rather, it describes patented varieties of almonds, walnuts and pecans they may crack open with vintage nutcrackers—making a gleeful mess before dinner is served.
Tree nuts still resist the specific varietal trademark branding now associated with former fruit commodities, such as the Pink Lady® or forthcoming Cosmic Crisp™ apples. Patent rights in undifferentiated fruit or vegetable produce usually focus on solving grower or industry facing concerns, instead of directly appealing to consumer taste preferences.
This post spotlights tree nut grower issues—as revealed by recently issued U.S. plant patents—and offers some tasty uses for this trio of very healthy, but seemingly under-utilized foodstuffs.
Almond Trees Named ‘Kester’ and ‘Alm-21’
The most recent almond plant patent to emanate out of the UC Davis plant breeding powerhouse is for an almond variety named ‘Kester.’ The appellation is a tribute to the late Dr. Dale Kester, a highly regarded professor known for his work on the genetics and physiology of almonds.
Perusal of the ‘Kester’ plant patent specification discloses the “need for the development of new varieties capable of acting as a pollinizer for the California variety ‘Nonpariel’ (non-patented in the United States.)” The ‘Nonpariel’ almond variety is California’s leading almond and accounts for almost 40% of total almond planted acreage. Your reigning flavor profile of an almond is probably a result of consuming ‘Nonpariel’ almonds.
The basic almond grower’s issue is this: the ‘Nonpariel’ almond variety—like most commercial almond varieties—is “self-sterile and requires pollen from cross-compatible varieties for successful seed sets.” The much planted ‘Carmel’ almond variety in California formerly served this complementary pollinizing function, but has succumbed over time to a genetic disorder—non-infectious bud failure. The ‘Kester’ almond fills in the breach as a pollinizer variety with a “good overlap with the later ‘Nonpariel’ variety bloom.”
Given the widespread publicity regarding a dramatic fall-off in bee colony populations, one can readily understand why another relatively recent almond plant patent is taking the California almond growers market by storm. It is for an interspecific almond tree named ‘Alm-21’ invented by the Zaiger family (of Zaiger’s Inc. Genetics). It is trademarked as the Independence® almond.
The ‘Alm-21’ patent specification underscores the Independence® almond’s increasing market significance for almond growers:
This new and distinct interspecific almond tree ([AlmondxPeachxAlmond)], is of large size, vigorous upright growth and a productive and regular bearer of soft shell nuts with kernels having excellent flavor similar to ‘Nonpariel’ Almond (non-patented). * * *
The primary difference between the new variety and ‘Nonpariel’ . . . is the new variety is self fertile and ‘Nonpariel’ . . . is self sterile and needs a pollinator tree planted near to fertilize the flowers to produce almonds. (Emphasis added.)
The plight of declining bee populations is causing almond growers to shift their plantings to the ‘Alm-21’/Independence® almond variety. “In 2016, one quarter of all new almond acres were planted to the self-fertile Independence[®] variety” with many of these new almond trees being planted in the southern portions of the San Joaquin Valley.
Want to diversify your family’s consumption of almonds? Consider making your own almond milk from scratch. It is slowly, but deliciously supplanting cow’s milk in my diet.