Prunus Dulcis is native to regions of the Middle East with Mediterranean climates. The wild form of domesticated almonds grows in parts of the Levant, suggesting that almonds must first have been cultivated in this region. The fruit of the wild form contains the glycoside amyg-dalin, which is transformed into hydrogen cyanide upon infliction of injury to the seed. Domesticated almonds are not toxic due to a common genetic mutation resulting in the absence of glycoside amygdalin, and this mutant was grown by early farmers. Almonds are believed to have been one of the earliest domesticated fruit trees (Zohary & Maria, 2000). Domesticated almonds appear to have been cultivated as early as the Early Bronze Age (3000—2000 BC) of the Near East. An archaeological example of almond consumption, likely imported from the Levant, is the fruit found inTutankhamun's tomb in Egypt (c. 1325 BC) (Zohary & Maria, 2000). The almond has since been spread by humans along the Mediterranean shores into northern Africa, southern Europe, and, more recently, other parts of the world, including California (Rieger, 2006). Almonds have been an integral part of the diet in many of the Levant region cultures, being frequently used in pastries and other foods. For centuries, almonds have also been utilized therapeutically — both the wild variant (bitter) and the domesticated variant (sweet). For example, sweet almond oil, obtained from the dried kernel of sweet almonds, has traditionally been used for massage therapy, and medicinally ingested in the Greco-Persian system of medicine.
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