Traditional varieties such as marcona or desmayo largueta bloom early and need cross pollination, so they are not very suitable for the severe winter of La Mancha. Some years ago, almond production in the region was limited to certain locations with warmer microclimate in the sunny side of hills. That is the case of Los Yébenes and Las Labores. A man called Angel Calamardo came from this last village to my town. He set up an almond orchard with traditional varieties in the late 1990s.
Angel passed away and his daughter sold me the orchard last winter. It had been neglected for years and I had no clue about its varieties. Decades ago, the usual way to reproduce almond trees in the region was by seeds. Every seed originates a unique tree, which may be sweet or bitter. They kept the sweet ones and rejected the bitters. This may be the origin of the cocktail of local varieties that are grafted in Angel’s orchard.
I have made a study of the trees in the field. I identified every tree with a Cartesian framework, naming rows with letters and trees in each row by numbers. I have observed bloom and fruit of each tree. There were 148 trees in the orchard: 15 olives, 3 fig trees and 130 almond trees. Unfortunately, many almond trees have not shown flowers or fruits this year, so I just could sample 65 for bloom and 33 for fruit. I visited the trees three times in March to test the flowers and the shape of the tree. I visited them again last August, 15 to test the fruits (Fotos_2015_08_15). The full trial results can be downloaded in the attached Excel Variedades Calamardo .
The flowers ranged from small white to big pink. Some were white with a red base in the petal. The fruit was mostly hard-shell, but there were a few soft-shells. The ratio of kernel to fruit weight ranged from 12% to 27% for hard shells and up to 50% for soft shells. Kernel weight varied from 0.7 to more than 2 g. The fruit has a variety of shapes, as shown in the pictures of two samples, which have also different maturity times. On the basis of that, the orchard includes at least 7 varieties.
I was pondering if I graft these varieties in new orchards, but facts are facts: the low kernel ratio and low yields deters me from doing that. In any case, I will keep an eye on the performance of this orchard in the coming years.