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Almonds are a pillar of Sicilian gastronomy. In the southern Val di Noto region, the labor-intensive varieties that we grow can cost more than twice as much as those cultivated elsewhere. Native varieties like Pizzuta, Fascionello, Romana are unique in their shape, flavors and rarity.

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Almond trees have a heroic resistance to hot, dry weather like ours, but they can still use a helping hand. Tilling the soil makes it easier for the roots of each plant to catch the rain and we nurture the trees with cow and chicken manure - "slow" fertilizers that will show their results in six months' time!

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To bring new life to the tree, copper is applied to the pruning cuts and the trimmed branches are used by local bakeries in their wood-fired ovens, the almond wood flavoring their breads and pizzas.

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The best thing to do in this period? Stand back and let nature take its course.

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Once the flower petals fall, it's time to plow the surface of the soil. This keeps the surrounding grass in check and allows the soil to breathe.

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Emergency watering can happen up to three weeks before it's time to harvest. Unlike other kinds of produce, almonds won't become over ripe, so picking is done as late as possible to concentrate its flavor. This means picking happens just before the almonds start to naturally fall off the tree. As a result, each variety is picked separately.

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The almonds rest for 24 hours after picking: this hardens their external covering, which makes them easier to remove from their shells. More drying followssince humidity endangers the nuts' flavors and nutritional value. Drying is done under the hot Sicilian sun for three or four days. Curiosity: there is an old, traditional method used to know if almonds are well dried. Shake the shell close to your ear and to listen for the sound of the seed rattling inside the shell. The louder is the sound, the drier the seed.

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Once dried, our almonds are stored in a cool, dry place to inhibit mold growth and preserve flavor. When it's time for the shells to come off, a final, critical selection begins. A first screening is done mechanically, separating seeds by size. But no machine could replace the experience of our manual selectors who are in charge of the second screening, the last step on this long quest for quality.