Marcona Almonds are sometimes referred to as the "Queen of Almonds" and almost all of the production is from Spain. They are sweeter, fatter and rounder than the typical California variety. In Spain, they are usually blanched and then quickly sautéed in fresh extra virgin olive oil. When toasty brown, they are tossed with sea salt and served as a delicious snack.
With their distinctive shape, it is easy to differentiate between the marcona almond and the pointier California almond. With a higher content of natural and beneficial oils, the marcona almond is the ingredient of choice for the best turrones and other confections that are so popular during the holidays in Spain. Even the trees are different, requiring more time and more specialized growing conditions. Most of the marconas in Spain are grown in the region around Valencia and Alicante with some production also occruing further north on the Mediterranean coast in places like Tarragona.
Although sold blanched in bulk quantities, the marcona almonds are usually available fried or roasted, most often with olive oil or sunflower oil and sea salt. Increasingly common in the United States and in other countries in Europe, some of the best marcona almonds can be found online or at the finer specialty food stores. Expect to pay a little more for these almonds than the California almonds that dominate the market.
Largueta almonds are the slender, lower-fat cousins of the famous Marcona almonds. Thinner with a terrific crunchy texture, these almonds are also excellent roasted or fried.
While mostly eaten on its own, marcona almonds is an important component in a variety of dishes, especially desserts. Blended with orange blossom honey or mixed with egg, marcona almonds are critical ingredients in the wonderful variety of holiday sweets including turron, marzipan, date cake, fig cake, polverones, mantecados and the famous torta de Santiago. A handful of almonds a day is said to have a significant impact on overall health as they are reach in oleic acid and mono-unsaturated oils.
Whether served as a tapa, sprinkled on a salad or covered in a crisp candy shell, marcona almonds are a special treat that must be tried.