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I am interested because there seems to be information scattered here and there suggesting this, but offering no such instructions on just how it can be done. What I am curious of is not now to use amygdalin-containing nuts as a minor ingredient(such as to add flavor or scent), but if they can actually be eaten as food.

So far, I have read the following:

  • Amygdalin, when exposed to water, releases hydrogen cyanide.
  • Exposure to heat denatures either amygdalin or enzymes in the nut that allow it to hydrolyze.

If those things are true, wouldn't there be any information on making bitter almonds safe to eat? I can find nobody describing(better yet illustrating) a process to leach the almonds, yet it seems hypothetically possible.

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I think it most likely that the methods you describe are theoretically possible, but risky and not particularly cost-effective. Whatever the mechanism that could be used to render the almonds safe for consumption, it seems difficult to confirm this in a home preparation, leaving you with some potential (even if small) that they'll still produce some cyanide upon consumption. This doesn't have to be acutely toxic; chronic consumption can also be harmful in ways that you might not even notice immediately.

So then the question becomes, why take this risk? Bitter almonds aren't likely to be a significant food source; in this way they differ from things like cassava which provide a staple crop (and thus more incentive to develop effective, reliable ways to detoxify them). Even if you did develop a method, if you can't be certain that someone will follow it to the letter and could get sick as a result, it seems irresponsible to share your steps. Far safer just to avoid consuming bitter almonds.

  • 3
    Things like commercially prepared apricot kernel paste (presumably cost-effective, as you can get a 45 pound tub of it from Amazon) are certainly out there, as food ingredients, and in quantity (Amaretti Di Saronno - check the ingredients - 23% apricot kernel.) "Blanching" is mentioned in the product description of the paste, but details are scant-to-nonexsistant. As for avoiding bitter almond, most "almond paste" and "marzipan" also has significant bitter almond content (presumably also processed to make it safe), as the taste when you simply grind up almonds is not similar. – Ecnerwal Sep 25 '15 at 2:27
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    @Ecnerwal Yes, that's what I'm wondering. I can find no details on how something such as apricot kernels can be made reasonably safe to eat(not to be eaten as a staple but perhaps as a treat or without lethal poisoning). Apparently the answer to this question is "yes but why bother", but nobody actually seems to know the how behind the yes. Searches through Google, Google Books, Google Scholar, and Wikipedia have yielded nothing for me. – user10800 Sep 25 '15 at 3:04
  • @user10800 I'd hardly call my answer conclusive. I read your question more as looking for a way to do this at home, which I see now isn't quite the case. There's possibly a commercial chemical treatment that neutralizes the amygdalin which can't be easily replicated at home. Trade publications might be a good place to look next. – logophobe Sep 25 '15 at 3:27
  • @logophobe It'd be nice to do it at home but it the answer doesn't have to be aimed in that direction; rather, I found a question I want answered for the sake of knowledge but could not find a sufficient answer anywhere else. I would have posted the question on the chemistry stack exchange but I was thinking cooking would be better for information on practical implementation(since I already know that it's hypothetically possible to hydrolyze it). Whether or not anyone has actually made amygdalin containing nuts safe to eat is slightly different from whether or not amygdalin can be removed. – user10800 Sep 25 '15 at 3:35
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    Just as a data point, whenever I buy fresh apricots I save the stones and later, when all the apricots are gone, crack them open to eat the kernels. Generally this involves eating about six kernels at a time. I've been doing this all my life, as it was routinely done when I was growing up. I'm still alive. I think the concern regarding safety is exaggerated; I wouldn't eat, say, thirty apricot kernels at one go but my experience tells me a half dozen is perfectly safe. – verbose Jan 11 '17 at 17:56

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