Just What in the World Are Jordan Almonds?

If you’ve been to more than a couple of weddings in your lifetime, chances are that you have encountered the Jordan Almond at least once. The Jordan Almond is simply a whole almond encased in a sugary candy coating that can be found in a myriad of colors, from pastel shades to vibrant hues. But where do they come from, and why do they always show up at weddings? Do they have anything to do with Jordan, and do they even taste that good anyway?

The Jordan Almond is a candy with a celebrated history dating back centuries. This candy is a dragee, a type of bite sized, sugar coated treat eaten for more than one purpose. Dragees were originally eaten for medicinal or symbolic purposes, in addition to simply for enjoyment. In this case, the slight bitterness of the almond at the candy’s center is meant to symbolize life’s bitterness, while the sugar coating its sweetness. It is said that hundreds of pounds of the confection were eaten after the wedding of Lucrezia Borgia and the Duke of Ferrara in 1487. The symbolic wish of the this particular almond is that the life of the new couple be more sweet than bitter. For those of you who always wished your Jordan Almonds tasted a little more like almond and a little less like sugar, perhaps keeping this message in mind as you nosh on the confection will keep you in a forgiving frame of mind if it is a bit on the saccharine side for your taste buds.

Many times we now find Jordan Almonds scattered about the tables at wedding receptions, or available by the scoop at wedding-favor-candy-bars, a subject for another blog post, but in Italian tradition, five Jordan Almonds were, and still sometimes are, given as a favor to guests of the bride and groom. The five almonds symbolize five wishes, both for the new couple and for each of the guests. The five wishes are health, wealth, longevity, fertility and happiness. Similar traditions find expression in different ways across different cultures. In Greece, sugar coated almonds, called κουφέτα, are placed in decorative bags, which are served to guests on silver trays. Trays are carefully loaded only with odd numbers of bags, as odd numbers are indivisible, just as the new couple should be indivisible. Other legends surround the Jordan Almond, including one that says if you place the almond under your pillow, you will dream of your future husband or wife.

What about that name? Jordan Almonds? Do they come from Jordan? The simple answer is… well… probably not. All signs point to “Jordan” as a corruption of the French word jardin, meaning garden. This is probably a reference to the almonds originally being cultivated rather than wild. A second possibility is that the original Jordan Almond was made with a particular variety of almond that grew along the Jordan River. The real origin is lost to us, but the idea, wishing a happy life to the new couple, and health, wealth, prosperity, long life and many children to both new couple and guests, is an admirable one, and a sweet addition to any wedding reception.