Green Almonds

On the cover of the Zuni Cafe Cookbook you will see three nectarines, several slices of prosciutto, and there, at 9 o’clock on the plate, a handful of green almonds, two of them split open, their kernels separated on to the black plate. This image, to me, has always evoked a precious, inaccessible other world–a world where a person might harvest green almonds as easily as one might buy peanut M&Ms from one of those machines you crank in diners or movie theaters. It’s a world I thought I’d never know and, frankly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know: I kind of liked my almonds aged and musty in their plastic containers from Key Food. When would I ever get to experience a green almond? Probably never. That is, until, last week when I stumbled upon them at Fairway in Red Hook.

There they were: green almonds. Just like on the cover of The Zuni Cookbook, only these were labeled “fresh almonds” which, I’m pretty sure, are the same thing.

Now you should know something about me: when it comes to flavors that I love, I’m pretty ambivalent about the almond itself, but as far as all the wonderful things we get from the almond? Almond paste? Amond cake? Almond liquor? Toasted almond gelato (which I had at Franny’s two months ago and it blew me away)? These are among my favorite things: I love all the sweet things that can be derived from the almond.

But what would I think about the almond at the opposite end: if all those examples are where the almond winds up at the end of its life, what is it like as a baby? It was time to find out. Here are the green almonds on a plate:

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Aren’t they pretty? Zuni Cafe cookbook pretty? Like should Judy Rogers hire me to shoot the cover of her next book?

Here’s one split open:

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It almost looks like an avocado on the inside, except instead of a pit there’s a white seed–a seed that you eat.

So I plucked that seed/kernel/baby almond out from the shell and popped it into my mouth.

How was it?

It was surprisingly juicy: like a cross between a seed and a grape. The flavor wasn’t almondy at all, just bright and tangy–again, like a grape. Here’s the kernel bit in half:

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Did I love it? I’m sorry to say, no. Maybe it’d taste better with a nectarine and some prosciutto; by itself, it was rather underwhelming. It was a lot of peeling and extracting for a teensy little bite, a bite that, I suppose, is special because of all that peeling and extracting, but it just wasn’t a flavor that spoke to me the way that almond cake speaks to me or toasted almond gelato.

Which is to say: I like old people almonds better than little baby almonds. The little almonds are cute and fun to put on cookbooks, but old people almonds know what they’re doing–they have a lifetime of experience to speak from and they taste better for it. Old people almonds remain my almonds of choice.

14 comments

  1. Adam, I think you’re supposed to also eat the green part, too. A coworker of mine brings unusual food items in for show and share, and he encouraged me to eat the whole thing when he brought green almonds. It’s very tangy, and not very almondy at all. I think it’s a taste to get used to.

  2. You eat the whole thing, in Iran we eat it with a bit of salt but then again most snacks are eaten with salt.

    I think it’s a pretty common snack in the middle east, I just got a back from the corner grocery store yesterday and freaked out my wife with it. It’s usually a kid snack, not something you would serve to guests.

  3. Someone brought green almonds to my seder this year. We ate them whole – a lot less work and a very unique experience. They taste very green. Eating one at a time is the way to go – unlike, say, peanut m&m’s, or even regular almonds, which you can eat by the handful.

  4. Yeah, I think the commenters above are right. A guy from one of those middle eastern stores on Atlantic Ave gave me some to try a while back and he told me that eating them whole was the move. I kind of agree with you though…not something I’m running out in search of on a regular basis.

  5. You eat the whole thing? Freaky! I don’t know if I could figure that out on a first encounter with these babies. Which reminds me of what I tried to do the first time with an edamame pod. Eater.Must.Be.Smarter.Than.Food.

  6. In the third paragraph, you need to correct “Amond cake” to read “Almond cake.”

  7. they have also been know to show up at sahardi’s on atlantic…. i’ve never tried them this way, as i can’t seem to tear myself off a bag of roasted tamari almonds.

  8. You can eat the entire almond pod when it is immature in the month or so after the bloom, which took place back in February in California. Later the pod solidifies and the internal jelly sack firms into what will, in a few months, become the almond. The outside becomes a woody hull and inedible unless you’re a goat! At this point, as you discovered, you can split the pod and eat the slightly firmed nutlet inside. (I’ve been eating these for years and have written about green almonds on this blog I created for a class I taught. A neglected blog but attracting interest with the appearance of green almonds in more markets.)

    http://www.recipesintoprint.com/2007/05/green-almonds-when-biblical-food.html

  9. You have really outdone yourself with those pictures! You should get an award for “great blog with most improved photography.”

  10. Fascinating! We get so used to our favorite part (or stage) of a plant that it can be a real shocker to discover other options.

    Avocado leaf tea and almond kernels (available at Trader Joe’s) spring to mind as other examples of unfamiliar parts of familiar foods.

    Of course, like green almonds compared to brown ones, they aren’t nearly as good as avocados or apricots.

  11. hey,

    this is because you ate in the wrong way:)! I’m lebanese and we usually eat the whole thing- not the inside only -, we dip it in salt and have it with a beer. I would suggest that you try it that way…and dont compare it with aged ones:) different taste!

  12. I just bought some at Fairway on the UWS. Amazing to eat a brand new food at age 57. Your blog was helpful and I kind of agree I like the adult almond better, but I may try some with salt and beer as suggested below.

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