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Frequently Asked Questions: Last updated 04/3/2013
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D & S Ranches is a privately owned group of Almond and Nut Orchards in Selma, California. Selma is a small farming community in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. It has been known for over a hundred years as the Raisin Capital of the World, but it also has the perfect climate, soils and Mediterranean latitude for growing Almonds. You are buying Direct From The Grower, with no middle man, no repackaging, no stale product that has been previously shipped and stored in remote warehouses. Our Orchards and the Harvesting are under continuous and direct supervision of the owners with no outside interference from large marketing co-ops or for-profit public corporations or investment groups. We are interested in one thing: Quality Trees and Nuts!
Our answer to this makes sense if we turn this question around and ask “why should we sell them to you when we can get just as much in the export wholesale market?” Over the last few years the price of Almonds has risen on the export and wholesale market to record levels. We began to notice that the quality of Almonds in the Retail Grocery Store shelves began to fall as the prices went sky high. This was disturbing to us. 100 % of our Orchard production was going to export markets, and the American consumer was never seeing high quality Almonds at a price he could afford to buy ! We decided to offer a small percentage of our production direct to the American consumer, so that he or she could have a source of quality fresh Almonds at a fair price, and not be out bid by the export market.
So the answer to Why should I buy my Almonds from you? is: because you can have access to the same quality and price Almonds that has been previously totally diverted to the export markets. Additionally we will treat you right, with outstanding customer service as well as the highest quality.
Many people do not know that Almonds are trees with many different varieties. Almonds have as many varieties as any other tree you might be familiar with. Just like Peaches or Apples. With Apples there are Fuji, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Gravenstein, Red Delicious, and on an on. With Almonds there are, Aldrich, Butte, Carmel, Mission. Nonpareil, Padre, Ruby, Winters, and many many others.
Actually there are over 25 Varieties of Almonds grown here in the Central Valley where our Ranches are located. Each variety has a slightly different flavor profile, nut shape, skin color and texture, but they are all Almonds, just a little different one from the other. This makes some better suited to different end uses, for example, one might be better for plain eating, one better for baking, one for candy making, one for processing into flour or butter, etc. We offer different nut varieties from time to time depending on many factors. Right now we have the Nonpareil and Montery and Aldrich Varity for eating and baking and roasting.
The Nonpareil is considered the very best plain eating Almond, it has a light color skin with smooth texture and mild taste. It also roasts very well, with a beautiful roasted almond aroma and flavor.
The Montery Variety is also an excellent eating almond, and has a stronger more robust "almond" flavor. This makes it an ideal choice for baking, like in brownies or candy making. Generally the skins are slightly darker in color and a little more wrinkled.
The Aldrich Variety has a bold aromatic taste. It has a distinctive “macaroon” like flavor. Besides just plain eating, it makes an excellent choice for the home candy maker, or to add a bold almond flavor and aroma to home baked goods like brownies and cookies.
It is a matter of personal taste which of the many varieties you prefer. It is not the case that one is "better" than another, just different one from the other. Try a sample of each and perform you own “almond tasting”. You will soon be an expert !
The Almonds that you see in retail stores, particularly the big chains, and membership stores, are usually very inferior for a number of reasons.
First, they are almost never a single variety, but rather a "mix" of many different Almonds. They are rarely sized for uniformity or inspected for quality and they contain a large portion of broken and scratched nuts and are mostly smaller nuts. This reduces the wholesale costs on the nuts and increases the profit for the store..
But the biggest problem is the transportation and storage. They are usually not stored properly and are exposed to odors around them in warehouses that contain everything from cases of motor oil to TV sets. They have endured truck rides around the country, in and out of long storage periods in hot warehouses or “distribution centers”. Proper industry standard cold storage is critical to maintain nut quality, and large chain stores do not have the facilities, the expertise, and frankly don’t care very much about, proper storage.
Recently large chains like Trader Joes and Costco have begun obtaining "pasteurized" Almonds This is a disaster. It effectively destroys all the delicate Almond Flavor, but it has one big benefit. It allows enormous profit for the store. This is because, "just any old nuts" including ones that are years old, imported from unknown sources and perhaps not USDA inspected, of questionable quality, to be "thrown into the pasteurizer machine" and the resulting nuts can be made safe for human consumption! They are tasteless and terrible, but you can safely eat them, and you will be happy to know that you are helping the share holders of that big corporate chain, because they bought the nuts for a fraction of what quality fresh nuts would cost.
The small supermarket or corner grocery store has problems of its own as well. I see a certain very well known Brand of Almonds with a Blue Label in my local supermarket that have been hanging on a warm shelf for who knows how long. My eye for nut meats is pretty good. They look like mixed lots to me, on the small size, and none too fresh. The large co-op nut processors that distribute these packages through retail giants like Fleming Foods Inc and Kroger Inc. are no fools, they are exporting, for top dollar, the premium nuts world wide while handing inferior nuts to the domestic market. The US consumer eating a small package of nuts from his local store is now in the odd position of competing against a world trade market for its own agricultural products. In other words, we can't afford to eat our own nuts, and the big retailers in the business are not helping.
Yes, all nuts are graded by a USDA inspector as to quality and size. This inspection takes place at the moment that the Almonds are harvested and the hulls and shells are removed. Grade and Size of the nuts are noted as the USDA Inspector fills out a form stating exact percentage of quality size, moisture and other technical details of the lot.
Unfortunately there is no legal responsibility on the retail packer of the nuts to later tell you this lot information, or to tell you what the USDA grade or size is that you are buying or to even state the country of origin, or to prevent the mixing of lots, varieties, types or sizes. This USDA grading occurs at the point when the grower delivers the nuts to the huller and sheller and is done to comply with Federal Law. The purpose of the grading is to stabilize the wholesale market and is done under a Federal Marketing Order which has the force of law. It is a legal requirement. At one time in the past growers were defrauded by handlers that refused to pay for or otherwise defrauded the grower as to the quality and size of delivered agricultural products. Now USDA Marketing Orders cover everything from Cotton to Beef. But the poor consumer is left entirely out of the picture if the seller of the nuts later fails to communicate the USDA information to the consumer.
We are a little different in this regard. We are packaging for you Almonds from a specific graded USDA lot and our package reflects this. You know exactly what Variety, Grade and Size you are buying from us because we tell you. Next time you are at “joes” national chain store look at the package of Almonds. Does it tell you the variety of Almond? Does it state the growing origin of the Almonds? Does it state the Size or USDA Grading category of the Almonds?
Recently there has been much confusion in the popular press regarding the requirement of "pasteurization" of Almonds. We are asked over and over if our Almonds are "pasteurized".
The answer to this is very complex, and we will be updating information about Un Pasteurized Almonds on a weekly basis. If you want to read and stay current on the legal issues surrounding this topic, then please click here /unpasteurized.htm
Important News About Our Shippable Almond Crop !
D&S Ranches, an Orchard Grower in the San Joaquin Valley of California, has an Important Announcement to make regarding Pasteurization of our Naturally Grown California Almonds! After the Almond Board Rule went into effect we began to extensively research the Best, most Non-Intrusive methods available to reduce bacteria on the skin of the nut without affecting the nut meat itself.
The Good News:
The Good news is that we have found a process that does just that ! This method was developed for the Spices Food Group where any alteration or destruction of the interior of the nut or spice kernel would destroy the delicate value of the item. As it turns out we were able to get this technology approved for application on our Selma California Grown Nut Crop!
Please beware of other processes:
We are concerned that there are a good number of other processes out there that are very inferior and some are outright dangerous! The most common is simple autoclave sterilization and this is, essentially, just cooking the nut. After and autoclave process, the nut is no longer living, it is dead, and all the valuable nutrients of the nut have been cooked and destroyed. Unfortunately the Almond Board, under presser from the Big Almonds Handlers, Processors and Growers are calling and labeling, in the stores, these nuts as RAW ! They ARE NOT RAW! They are COOKED !
Other processes are
using PPO (Propylene Oxide Gas). You should never, every under any
circumstances eat nuts exposed to PPO Gas. PPO is a known carcinogen
(causes cancer). It is toxic and poisonous!.. The European Union (EU)
has prohibited the use of PPO Gas on any Human Food Product. The USDA
and the FDA still allow it. Inquire with your store if their nuts have
been exposed to PPO ! Make sure you know! This is serious business.
The law is very clear on this point. You can not buy UnPasturized Almonds over the Internet. We understand that there is a growing mini-industry of hucksters that are putting up Internet sites and posting on eBay claiming to sell unpasturized Almonds, but the reality is that they are lying to you. It is impossible for them to buy unpasturized nuts for re-sale from distibutors (or Almond "handlers" as they are called under the provisions of the law). The Distributors (Handlers) are simply not going to risk their large businesses to become in violation of the law so that they can sell a few hundred pounds of unpasturized nuts on the internet.
There is a single exemption that allows us to sell 100 pounds or less to you directly from our farm location. Because of the diffuculty in arranging for a retail sale at our working ranch, we no longer offer this service.
For your information D&S Ranches has been from the beginning of this issue legally fighting for your rights to buy Whole UnPasturized Almonds. See our pages about this legal fight at: http://www.wholesale-almonds.com/cornucopia.htm
Before they are sent to you the Almonds are held in industry standard
cold storage at 32-40F. We recommend you store them the same way. When
you receive them it is best to store Almonds (opened or unopened ) in
the frig. Between 32-40 F. We do not recommend that you hard freeze
them in Zero or Sub-Zero Freezers.
Why Do You Not Reccommend That I Freeze My Almonds? [Back to Top]
Freezing causes degradation in the nut meat due to micro frozen water crystals that expand and contract and this mechanical action turns the nut meat mushy. It is a physical and cosmetic degradation, it does not “hurt” the nut meat in any nutritional way, however. It is not necessary to freeze nut meats to prevent bacteria in the same way you would freeze meat or poultry to prevent bacteria. Nuts will keep for up to one year without any chance of bacterial contamination just fine at 40F in a refrigerator. Freezing is totally unnecessary.
Additionally in a 0 or sub Zero Freezer the RH (relative humidity) is Zero. Over many months of storage this causes the nut meat to loose moisture and become very dry and brittle. Again, this is a physical and cosmetic concern, it does not cause the nut meat to loose nutritional value.
However, it can cause serious impact on the quality of the nut as it relates to how it tastes and feels when you eat it. Most nut meats have considerable retained moisture when harvested and when they are truly “fresh”. For example our Almonds have about 8% moisture. We test for this moisture content as part of the USDA grading certification.
Yes, we offer California Certified Organic Almonds. We do not grow Organic Almonds here on our ranches but we offer very high quality California State Certified Organic Almonds from known reliable local ranches only a few miles from us. These are people we know and trust.
We supply you with the California State seal certification paperwork for your assurance. These are whole nuts, not scratched and broken, and not from unknown foreign sources. There are many imported Almonds in circulation in organic stores. We recommend that you always obtain certification when buying organic Almonds and Walnuts.
Without a doubt the questions we get asked most about Organic Almonds is “Are Organic Almonds worth the extremely high price?” and “What is it the benefit to me when buying Organic Almonds?” We here at D&S Ranches grow our Orchards under IPM (Integrated Pest Management Programs) that is very close to Organic Practices, so the two previous questions have real merit and should be investigated closely by anyone considering investing in organic Almonds.
Our nut Orchards are grown using "IPM" Practices. This is the Integrated Pest Management Theory and Practice as developed by University of California at Davis California. It is the most scientific and well researched program to use minimal chemicals, while at the same time enhancing natural pest control populations in the growing orchard.
You will find that good farming practice using IPM probably meets or is very close to a lot of the concepts of Organic Farming. For your information, crops that are perennial and long term are the easiest to cultivate without the use of extraordinary chemical and "high pressure" farming techniques. The shorter in time that the crop in the ground, the shorter its growing season, is the type of crop that receives the most brutal chemical and fertilizer treatments from the commercial farming industry. Almonds and Walnuts are deep rooted long term crops that can be successfully grown with minimal to no pesticides and chemicals.
Integrated pest management (IPM) plays an important role in almond orchard management. In almonds, as in other crops, the goal is to achieve economically realistic levels of pest control that protect yield and quality. This includes control of arthropods, disease, weeds and rodent pests. IPM does the following, among many other cultural practices in the growing orchard.
--Continually monitoring pests, beneficial insects and mites, and applying chemical treatments only when absolutely necessary.
--Accepting certain levels of insect populations and not treating them as long as they don’t exceed economic threshold levels.
--Choosing environmentally friendly and lower toxicity pesticides as often as possible.
--Implementing cultural and/or biological controls in place of chemical controls where possible.
--Using broad-spectrum insecticides as a last choice—only when pests exceed treatment thresholds and environmentally friendly treatments aren’t feasible.
Here is some information on Organic Nuts.:
This is the method we use here at D&S Ranches.
Almond Butter has got to be one of the greatest treats there is! After you have tried some fresh Almond Butter on your toast you will never go back to peanut butter ! It is healthy, good for you, delicious, and very nutritious.
The important point about Almond Butter is, that just like the nuts themselves, the Fresher the Better! There would be little point in offering you Almond Butter that was made previously and risks getting old and stale when you can make you own Almond Butter fresh when you need it. The process is so simple that anyone can do it.
All you need is some Almond Meal (which we do sell) and a good quality home food processor. For the recipe see our web store under the category Butters and Meal.
Almond Flour can also be made from our Almond meal. You can use a bur grinder or a high speed coffee mill. Because, again like Almond Butter, Almond Flour is highly perishable, we do not offer it pre-made, but offer the meal from which it can be made at a moments notice when you need it.
We ship by Air Priority USPS. This service is offered to PO Boxes, APO addresses, into Guam, Virgin Islands Alaska and Hawaii at no additional cost.
We also offer UPS Ground, which may be less expensive if you are near our ZIP code. However, consider carefully the extra time of delivery and warm summer season conditions of your package before you choose the UPS system. UPS does not deliver to Postal Boxes.
The USPS Air Service is very fast and exposes the Almonds to the minimum of warm conditions during transportation. Usually it is 2-3 Day anywhere in the USA. Since we use USPS Priority Mail, not UPS, they seldom are transported above average room temps. USPS Priority is really a part of the First Class Air Mail Postal Service. All postal sorting facilities are air conditioned, and the leg in the airplane is also reasonably cool. The only part of the transport with USPS that is in question is the time that the delivery is in the postal van out to deliver at your destination location. At that time the temps may be higher than is desirable, but this time duration is usually relatively short.
We package Almonds in Oxygen Barrier Vacuum Bags. Because of the volume of the nuts when packaged in different quantities the shipping costs are different depending on whether you order multiples of 5 pounds packed in one bag or 5 pounds packed in 5ea One Pound bags. Please see the shipping computer on the Cart Ordering system for details on the cost of any particular order. If there is an Overcharge from Actual Cost by the checkout computer we will refund any difference back to your account.
If you have questions you would like answered in our FAQs or have a specific question you need answered right away, please email us. We would be happy to try and help.