Down & Dirty

Green Almonds: Underage and Misunderstood

By • June 6, 2013 • 5 Comments

Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.

Green almonds are young, misunderstood (spoiler alert: almonds aren't actually nuts), and hard to track down. Meet the angsty teenagers of the fruit world.

We tend to think of almonds as nuts, but they aren’t really, and they aren't the only spring delicacy that we’ve mislabeled. (Almonds aren’t the only mislabeled nuts; cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, and pistachios aren’t true nuts either. Looking for scintillating cocktail party banter? You're welcome.) Almonds are actually the seeds of stone fruits, so they're related to peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries. With their soft, fuzzy exteriors, green almonds even look like tiny unripe peaches, too. And green almonds are indeed unripe, as they’re picked before the almond inside the fruit has had a chance to fully mature and form a hard shell.

Where to Find Them and What to Look For
Like artichokes, California produces almost all of this country's almond crop, so if you can’t find green almonds at your farmers market, you might have better luck at a Middle Eastern market. They’re available for a brief period of time between mid-April and mid-June, so act quickly. Choose almonds that are a soft green color and are free of any brown spots. 

More: Not sure where the nearest farmers market is? Find one on Real Time Farms. 

How to Prep
How mature your green almonds are when you buy them will determine how you can use them. If they're really fresh, the inner almond seed will be gelatinous (1) -- similar to a grape -- and you can eat the entire thing, green flesh and all. If they're slightly older, the outer green husk will become bitter and inedible, and you’ll need to crack it open with a knife and extract the firmer milky white almond (2) within.

How to Use
Green almonds are often served with just a sprinkling of sea salt. You can use them in pastas, stews, and salads. Add them to a jam, or even turn them into a beverage. If you’re feeling ambitious, try a recipe from the Alinea cookbook in which cucumber gelée is studded with green almonds, and then garnished with sweet, hot, sour, and salty elements. Looking for something a little less intense? We’ve got a week’s worth of ideas, and we can’t wait to hear how they work for you.

Friday: Fresh Almond Salad 
Saturday: White Gazpacho 
Sunday: Alice Waters’ Lulu’s Apricot Compote with Green Almonds 
Monday: Green Almond Salsa Rustica
Tuesday: Pickled Green Almonds
Wednesday: Strawberry Spinach Salad with Green Almonds and Pickled Rhubarb 
Thursday: Pasta Salad with Fresh Green Almonds and Mediterranean Herbs 

Photos by James Ransom

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Tags: down and dirty, diagrams, green almonds, fresh almonds, almonds, drupe fruits, stone fruits, lindsay-jean hard, special diets

Comments (5)

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3 months ago Cynthia In Puglia

Priscilla,

Thanks so much for your advice. I've been hashing out the process with a great group of expats on this side of the pond and we ended up combining Judy Witts Francini candied walnut recipe she was kind enough to share with Lucy Vanels clementines confites recipe which I adore. Now that I have seen your recipe I realized that I was overcomplicating the whole thing! Our almonds are at varying stages of maturity depending on the location of the trees and I can still get smaller ones. i have (attempted) to candy them, have pickled them (thanks to Glaia Kremezi), made homemade almond paste for a cassata (Rosetta Costantino) eaten them raw with EVO and chili salt and simmered with EVO and lemon juice/salt. The fun is just beginning with the almond season here!

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about 1 year ago Priscilla Martel

Nice. When they are still babies, in February, I like to slice green almonds over salads or candy them whole. At this point in the season though, immature almonds like those in both of your photos will be difficult to find. By June, the nutlet will really be forming and its skin turing brown. I'm envious of friends in California who may be able to get their hands on almonds in late June and July, when they become a "fresh almond." Of course year round their is almond butter.

Me

about 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

Candied green almonds sound lovely! And yes, almond butter for the win.

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3 months ago Cynthia In Puglia

Dear Priscilla,
I saw your comment regarding the fact that ou candy young whole almonds. I live in the south of Italy with almond trees and am trying to track down a recipe. The nearest thing I have found is a recipe from an 18th century collection which is not clear to me. Do you have a recipe you would be willing to share? Thanks in advance. Cynthia

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3 months ago Priscilla Martel

Hi Cynthia,
I'll share my procedure because I don't follow a recipe but the almonds in California are too mature to candy by now. I would have to get them no later than mid March. The growing season is even further ahead in Italy so you may not find whole green almond pods tender enough to candy.
So for this year (if you are lucky) or next season. I candy the whole tender pods the same way I make candied grapefruit or orange rind. Blanch the whole pods in boiling water for a few minutes. This sterilizes and tenderizes them. Rinse under cold water to set the green color. Drain very well. Then simmer them in simple syrup. You can add spices, a cinnamon stick etc. if you like. Allspice berries work well. Once they are tender, drain them very well on a screen. Then roll them in sanding sugar. Priscilla