October 12

Beware the Almond Rustlers

2  comments

A number of years ago, we purchased a small Haas avocado ranch on the central coast of California on which we had planned to build a home from which we could watch the sunset on the Pacific and eat a lot of guacamole. First one thing and then another interfered with our plans (mostly the obstructive, hostile posture of the local county planning board) and after several frustrating and expensive years of wrangling with them, we finally sold the property. It was our first foray into the world of agriculture and an eye-opening foray it was.

You’ll notice that I didn’t say avocado farm or even avocado orchard, although the latter term is acceptable apparantly; for some peculiar reason, stands of avocado trees are referred to as ‘ranches’ and thus, we were, briefly, avocado ranchers. A host of problems can bedevil the novice avocado rancher: blights of one kind and another; thrips, a destructive insect pest that deforms the fruit and mars its skin, making it fetch less in the marketplace; and rustling. You sort of expect to have to fight disease and pestilence in the agri biz, but rustling?

Oh, yes. Believe it or not, your avocado crop can get rustled, just like a herd of cattle, and ranchers have to institute measures to protect their fruit from such predation. Being on the road a lot and mainly absentee land owners without a full-time manager, we lost half a crop one season.

Ouch!

Thus, I read with interest a recent piece by Jesse McKinley of the New York Times that was picked up in our local paper:

Almonds the prize for new crop thieves.

It would appear that avocados aren’t the only rustle-worthy product.

The piece described the travail of one Scott Phippen, a third-generation almond man who had recently had about 88,000 pounds of almonds with a street value of $260,000 nut-napped from his shipping yard in Fresno.

According to the article, he’s not alone:

Driving the crime wave is the surging popularity of almonds, which are high in vitamin E and antioxidants and have been linked to lower cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of heart disease.

While that’s all true, it occurred to me that there might be something else at work. Perhaps the surging popularity of almonds (and avocados for that matter) might also be a consequence of the broad-based popularity of the low carb diet into which both foods figure prominently. Certainly, thanks at least in part to our PBS tv show, our cookbooks, and those of other low-carb authors, the use of almond meal as a flour substitute has skyrocketed, both for home baking and for commercial purposes, such as my favorite cracker, the Blue Diamond Nut Thin.

And as the demand for almonds has risen, so has their value to the almond-rustling underworld, who have nut-napped $1.5 million in nuts from the industry.

What does one do with 88,000 pounds of almonds? Make one whale of a coffee cake.

For the rest of us, who have slightly fewer almonds to deal with, click here for the recipe for Pecan Cinnamon Coffee Cake we made on the Coffee Klatch episode of our PBS tv show Low Carb CookwoRx. (You’ll need to type the recipe title into the recipe search browser bar on the CookwoRx site.)

The recipe only calls for 1 cup of almond flour (or meal) so if you’ve got leftovers, be sure to lock ’em up, lest they be rustled!


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  1. The new unsweetened Almond Breeze(liquid in Vanilla and Chocolate) is creating quite a stir on the low carb boards. The taste is good and can be used in smoothies or cooking as a dairy substitute.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Thanks for the tip! We’ll have to give it a look and a whirl, maybe try to make some almond milk ice cream with it for our grandson who’s casein intolerant.

  2. Would anyone be able to link me to the thread(s) in the forum that people are talking about this product? It looks great, but I’d like to read what people have to say about it.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: I would expect if you just log onto the forum and log into any ongoing line and ask that question, one of the moderators will help.

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