I stumbled across these beauties the other day and had to share them with you fast! Green almonds are one of the (fleeting) joys of spring available for somewhere between 4 and 8 weeks between April and June. And they are exactly what you think: almonds that are not yet ripe, picked before the shell hardens and before they are traditionally ready to harvest, which usually happens in late summer or early fall.
The first thing that you notice about green almonds is their teardrop shape and that they have this lovely, soft, fuzzy exterior, which resembles the feel of peaches and apricots (they are actually related). The inside houses a skinless, white, baby almond, that varies in texture with its maturity; when picked very early, the texture is more gelatinous, and, later, it begins to firm up and have more of a bite. These can be eaten whole, as is, or shelled. Whole, eating a green almond reminds me of biting into a more tart and meaty pea pod with that herbaceous, tannic and slightly fruity flavor. Shelled, it’s more delicate, lacking the traditional almond flavor and with a milder, less tart flavor than the whole guy.
Almonds are native to the Middle East, so people there have been snacking on green almonds for centuries. Oftentimes, they are simply sprinkled with a bit of salt, but I’ve also seen them incorporated into rice dishes. In Europe, these little guys get tucked into fruit preserves during the jarring process. Here, chefs have been using them in a myriad of ways – in soups, pestos, on greens. They can be shaved over a salad or even fish – their mild flavor pairs beautifully with seafood. I love them fried (who wouldn’t!) and sprinkled with a nice, flavored salt; smoked Maldon is amazing here.
I plan to veer away from savory this year and try them in a cream-based dessert. Like on top of a budino or in a clafouti. The main thing is to experiment with them and see how you like to eat them, but act fast before they disappear from the market…