An Unexpected Thai Treat

Big Tree in the middle of the rice fields

While working on the family farm in Nakhon Phanom this past April I put in more than my fair share of sweat equity getting the fields ready for the upcoming rice season. Most of the family fields are located just behind the house so we didn’t have far to go with our tractor loads of dung we had mucked from the stables.

Rice field rest stop (2)One thing kept bothering me though, a tree right in the middle of the family fields. You don’t see many large trees still standing in the rice fields but now and again you’ll see one lone tree defying the odds. At first I thought I had it all figured out, with the sun as strong as it was and me sweating my ass off and looking for any patch of shade I could find that could be the only answer. Then I realized that couldn’t be the answer. There were small huts and thatch roofed decks spotted around the fields for just that purpose.

My last day on the farm was all about relaxing and hanging out with the family and I spent a good part of that day sitting under that tree enjoying it’s shade. Pookie and her Aunt joined me, although they didn’t seem to understand the relaxing part because they were digging in the dirt around the tree. Next think I know they are pulling up what could only be described as hard black balls and throwing them into a straw hat. I swear to Buddha I thought they were collecting some sort of dung.

Thailand Almonds (2)Before I knew it I was digging around in the dirt and finding similar hard black balls and wondering just what the hell I was up to. Before long we had a hat full and were heading back to the house to relax in the shade there and eye up our curious find. Pookie disappeared into the house only to appear a few minutes later with a very wicked looking knife and a very determined look on he face.

After I realized she wasn’t coming for me but the hard black balls I settled down and watched as she started to split them in half with her wicked knife and feed me the treasure buried inside. As soon as I saw the first ball split open all my questions were answered. They were almonds and that big ass tree was an almond tree. I had missed the blooming of the tree earlier in the year and the harvest of it’s nuts. The nuts fall off the tree at will sometimes and bury themselves in the dirt. So now and again a treat can be had on a hot spring day.

Thailand Almonds (6) Thailand Almonds (7) Thailand Almonds (9)

I had never seen an almond in it’s shell before and the only almond trees I have ever seen were very small and ornate looking. The nut grows as the tree blooms and looks very similar to a small green peach. When the peach like shell hardens and turns a deep brown or black the almonds are ready to harvest.

Unripe almonds Almost ripe almonds

I have to say relaxing under the tree was nice but relaxing under the house while being hand fed the fruits of that tree was priceless. And some of us relaxed more than others.

Relaxing under the family house in Nakhon Phanom

sig1 An Unexpected Thai Treat

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Comment by MikeNo Gravatar
2009-10-23 01:08:02

Talen I actually thought you were going to say they were truffles-but I could see no pigs around to hunt them!

I like the way Thais don’t waste an opportunity for food as well.

My farmer neighbour is always giving me things to try, gathered from the hedgerows and fields, true hunter gatherers I think.
Mike´s last blog ..Buddhist Funeral Rites and Ceremony-The Final Journey My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-10-23 01:34:43

I thought they might be truffles at first because they were in the dirt. They really don’t waste any opportunity for food at the farm. They have every kind of tree you can think of so they are fairly well stocked up.

Comment by malcolmNo Gravatar
2009-10-23 01:26:20

Talen , what a great experience you got to have on a hot day. I have never in my life seen an almond tree until your post and never knew how they grew , thanks for the great pictures and post , I’m sure you thought you were living a little bit of heaven, here in your little piece of paradise in the LOS. Another new one to me was how cashew nuts grow , check it out very different than I thought all these years , maybe a new thing for you too. Malcolm
malcolm´s last blog ..FINGER LICKING GOOD My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-10-23 01:36:53

Funny thing is I had seen an almond tree before but it was shorter and looked much more like a cherry blossom tree.

I haven’t seen how cashew nuts grow so I’ll have to look them up and hope the family has them hidden on the farm somewhere as well.

Comment by CatherineNo Gravatar Subscribed to comments via email
2009-10-23 02:45:39

Talen, I too thought you were going to say that you were truffle hunting. And amazing that almonds get buried in dirt and are still good after. I never knew that.

During my childhood expat years (pre-birth to late teens), the family had an almond/olive/fruit orchard in the home country. It never crossed my mind to pay much attention to what was in the ground underneath. Ok, bugs and crawly things were a concern, but not much.

During my time there, I spent many hours under those trees in the quiet of the orchid looking up at the leaves budding, the blossoms blooming, blooms falling to carpet the ground, fruit beginning, fruit ripening, then, finally, the leaves falling.

I do recall having to remove hard pits and almonds covered with black mold from underneath my body, but I never thought to stick any in my mouth.
Catherine´s last blog ..Thai 101 Learners Series: Bumper-to-bumper Language Lessons My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-10-25 06:51:25

They seemed ok to me Cat. I don’t think they were on the ground for more than a month or so but who knows.

I’m guessing the hard outer shell keps the nut safe for a while but how long that could be is definitely not something I know.

Comment by MartynNo Gravatar
2009-10-24 18:01:24

I didn’t even realise Thailand had almond trees, yet another amazing discovery. The amount of different plants, fruits and in this case nuts that grow in rural Thailand does in a small way offset their lack of employment opportunities and money. Being self sufficient in terms of food is one great advantage the rural areas have and is a reminder to many of us of the good old times in our own countries way back yonder when country life was all about living off the land. Nowadays country folk in England take a weekly trip to Tesco.

If you wake up one day with a fuzzy head and a big brown hairy ball next to you then that will be a coconut tree you sat under.
Martyn´s last blog ..Three Steps To Heaven – Kanchanaburi’s Erawan Waterfall My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-10-25 06:48:01

I didn’t either Martyn…that’s why I was surprised when she cracked open the first nut.

“If you wake up one day with a fuzzy head and a big brown hairy ball next to you then that will be a coconut tree you sat under.”

Too funny, I try not to sleep under those or the damn durian trees…if the big durian doesn’t kill you the smell just may.

2009-10-25 03:41:13

Greetings fellow ProBlogger, and thanks for your comment on my post! I love the photos that you include in your blog, this one especially.

Trees in otherwise treeless areas are a Godsend across the planet. Here in Bandera, Texas, the summertime sun is brutal, and you can drive down Main Street and see poor citizens huddled underneath the shade of the few trees that dot parking lots along the highway.

This summer I was sitting in my car reading blogs on my iPhone under the shade of a tree while my kids took an afternoon nap. As I was reading, a police officer pulled up beside me and soaked up the other half of the shade of the tree while he did paperwork.

Shade is a precious commodity. :-)

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-10-25 06:49:10

Thanks for stopping by James. Shade is indeed a precious commodity, especially in Thailand on those hot days.

Comment by CatherineNo Gravatar Subscribed to comments via email
2009-10-25 07:38:36

Talen, your mention of brown balls got me thinking (western almonds don’t come in brown balls), so I googled…

Apparently, almonds in the west originated from Central Asia, with the tropical almonds coming from India.

Indian almond, erminalia catappa, myrobalan, tropical almond

Prunus dulcis, syn. Prunus amygdalus Batsch., Amygdalus communis L., Amygdalus dulcis Mill

So the tropical almond lives a different life. In addition, being able to become a human squirrel does seem like more of an advantage.
Catherine´s last blog ..Thai 101 Learners Series: Bumper-to-bumper Language Lessons My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-10-25 07:58:35

Excellent sleuthing there Cat, I figured there were a few different types just due to the fact that the trees look so differently.

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