The almond tree is one of the most characteristic trees of Mallorca’s landscape, and it provides gloriously colourful scenes during January and February, when it flowers. It is believed to originate from Central Asia, but it is known to have been cultivated in Southern Europe since the time of the Ancient Greeks. It was probably brought to Mallorca by the Romans, although it wasn’t widely cultivated until the nineteenth century, when its growth was promoted by the Real Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País (Royal Economic Society of the Friends of Mallorca). The cultivation of almonds was favoured by both the crisis engulfing vineyards due to phylloxera and the construction of an inland rail network, which facilitated the transport of almonds to the port of Palma. Almonds have always been cultivated for export; initially the oil was extracted and then exported to South and Central American colonies, where it was used in the manufacture of cosmetic and pharmacological products. When the colonies gained independence, almonds began to be exported to mainland Spain and foreign markets. Almond cultivation made up a very important part of agricultural income until Mallorca´s economy turned to tourism and the abandonment of rural areas began.
Almond production is now quite rare; this is due to the existence of many sub-varieties, and the fact that many trees are old and were planted on infertile soil, which is compounded by the sowing of animal fodder crops or cereals on the same land and the subsequent fall in the productivity of the soil. This sector is in decline on Mallorca and receives little in the way of investment or new technology, whereas other areas with a similar climate, such as California, are promoting the growth of almonds as an economically viable activity.
Mallorca has never had industries related to the processing of almonds, but they are important within local cuisine. This is especially true with respect to desserts, el gato, almond ice-cream and almond turron (a nougat bar) being classic examples. The wood from almond trees is strong and it has a nice colour, however, it cracks easily and has therefore not been extensively used in furniture production. It is highly appreciated as firewood though.