Almond blossoms are among the first to prelude the joyous spirit of spring in the air. Following the almond blossoms, plum trees burst into full bloom, soon to be followed by the adorable cherry flowers.

Apricot, peach and quince trees soon join the rite of spring with all blossoms culminating in a sweet-scented visual symphony. Almond blossoms may be leading this symphony of senses but they are also the unfortunate ones to suffer the cruel bites of frost.

This spring, almond blossoms in Anatolia were not alone. Unexpected April snowfalls in central and eastern Turkey caught all fruit trees without notice, blanketing the spring sprouts and blossoms.

Snow and almond blossoms have a history. Once upon a time there was a Moorish caliph who married a beautiful Nordic princess. They were living a lavish life in “Al-Gharb,” an Arabic name given to the lovely region, simply meaning “The West.” Al-Gharb, today’s Algarve in southern Portugal, really was the most Western tip of the Moorish Iberia, and Algarve actually gets its name from this Moorish name for the region.

However, the Nordic lady was never happy in this fruitful land of bounty. One day, seeing his dear wife crying watching the green hills of Al-Gharp, the caliph suddenly realizes the poor princess is terribly homesick, missing the snowcapped mountains of her native land. There was no way he could alter the seasons and bring snow to the green slopes, but instead he came up with a brilliant idea. He ordered his men to plant almond trees all over, so that each spring the hills of the western lands would become like the northeast, painted in white with the snowy white blossoms of the almond trees. He kept his order a secret and waited patiently for the spring to come.

The next spring his deeply saddened wife woke to a miracle. She thought for a moment that she was back home; the lawns and hills beyond their castle were all under a blanket of fairy whiteness as if covered with snow. Since then almond blossoms have been a symbol of Algarve and needless to say almonds have remained a main feature of Algarve cuisine.

Written by: Aylin Öney Tan



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