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Green Almonds: Underage and Misunderstood

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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

Tags: Long Reads, Sustainability, Ingredients, Down and Dirty, Diagrams