Green Almonds

Unless you live in an almond-growing region in the US, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s rather unlikely you’ll come across green almonds in your market. They don’t seem to be as popular in America as they are here in France. And right now in Paris, they’re heaped up in big mounds at the outdoor markets.

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In San Francisco, I would find green almonds at certain markets, and they were plentiful and abundant in the late spring. What is a green almond? They’re unripe almonds, picked before the shell has a chance to harden, and before the almond has had a chance to become crisp and mature (I’m still waiting for both, myself. Does that make me ‘green’ too?)

To extract the almond meat, take a large knife and embed the blade in the fuzzy green outer husk. Lift the knife and the almond and crack both down with modest force on a cutting board, making sure your fingers are safely out of the way. The Italian woman at my market cracks green almonds using her teeth, a method countless dentists probably don’t recommend. Her teeth are not exactly a stellar advertisement for that method either. But do watch your fingers and keep them away from the blade of the knife. You’ll find typing very difficult with just 9 fingers.

Once split open, pluck out the little almond in the center with the tip of a knife and peel back the rubbery, shiny-smooth skin, a task which many people find pleasurable. I sprinkle green almonds over summer fresh-fruit compotes that include sliced nectarines, tart apricots, and juicy berries. They also liven up a simple scoop of ice cream as well, but I know many French people that just snack on them as they are, a nibble before dinner with an aperitif accompanied by a glass of icy-cold, fruity rosé.

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If a French cooks makes you a gift of a jar of homemade jam, you’ll often find a few green almonds tucked in, as I did yesterday when I made a few jars of Peach Jam. If you’d like to taste green almonds, visit your local farmer’s market and see if they’re available. If not, ask any nuts farmers there to bring you some. Otherwise, you’ll have to come to Paris.

But don’t wait too long; the season is short and they’ll only be around another few weeks.

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21 comments

  • Thanks David! This is exactly why I love your site! I had seen the green almonds at my market this weekend but had no idea what I would do with them or how to “open” them! Now I must run out and get some!

  • Hi David,
    I love getting your perspective on life and food in Paris (and wherever else you manage to get to… 8^)

    Here in Israel it is green almond season and one of the nicest ways to get yourself around some of these almonds is by drinking fresh almond milk.

    No exact recipe, just green almonds (for a liter of total drink I used 3/4 kilo green almonds (that is weight before peeling), sugar syrup to taste, milk (and/or water) and icecubes, all zwizzed up in a blender.

    It is like drinking liquid marzipan. On hot days at the beginning of summer the water version is not so cloying, but if there is still a bit of a (relative) nip in the air then the milky way is super luscious.

    Of course best of all is if someone else makes it for you!

    Cheers,
    amanda

  • For the NYers – Sahadi’s in Brooklyn carries green almonds.

  • Well, not only for drinking – as amanda implied, good marzipan is made of green almonds a result that worth the work.

  • David,
    What do green almonds taste like?

  • I always thought the almonds in apricot jam were the bitter ones extracted from inside the apricot pit?

    In New York, you can sometimes find green almonds at Fairway…

  • How does the pleasure of peeling back the rubbery skin of a green almond compare to the exotic experience of peeling and eating a fresh lychee?

  • Yay! It just so happens I shall be at my parents’ this weekend, who live a mere 10 minute walk from the Monterey Market (and who also live a block and a half from my old apartment on Rose and Milvia). Now on top of stuffing myself on mushroom slices at Gioia’s, I will keep my eyes open for green almonds. Thanks, David.

    By the way, I wrote a love letter to Fran’s Chocolates on my site. I searched around yours and found you know the actual Fran – lucky man!

  • Weee!

    How bizarre that although I spent my entire childhood snitching green almonds off my grandparent’s tree (and joyously nibbling them until ill) I’ve NEVER heard of people using them in recipes. This is why I love your blog, it takes me home.

  • In NYC you can also sometimes find green almonds at Kalustyan’s.

  • Amanda: Thanks for giving us terrific recipe, but does that mean you’re not going to make it for me?

    Leah: Fran, and her son Dylan (who used to work at ScharffenBerger) are both awesome chocolatiers and charming folks to boot. Nice when the two are combined into one sweet mother-son team.

    Luisa: Yes, often bitter kernels are used, but I’ve seen green almonds too. But if you’re brave enough to navigate the other shoppers at Fairway, you’re a braver person that I. Those people are vicious! Perhaps we should send a few Parisians over to teach them a lesson (and send a few New Yorkers here to teach a few lessons to Parisians at the same time.)

    Sam: Peeling anything back to reveal something delicious is always a thrill. No matter what…lychees, green almonds, etc..

    Kevin: I can’t believe your neighbor didn’t bring you some of his jam for all your hard work, supplying him with almonds. How rude!

    Kevin#2: Green almonds taste vaguely-almondy, but are super-crispy.

  • Very interesting, i’ve never come across green almonds before but they look delicious. I think I just might have to take that 20-hour flight to Paris to find out.
    Are you able to use them in baking?

  • Avec grand plaisir – you are most welcome, if you ever make it to Jaffa (of oranges fame), to join me in a homemade almond milk (Of course, if you would rather make me one…)

    I think it would also make a quite divine semi-fredo served with a chocolate sauce of high calibre…

    Of course, Israel isn’t exactly known as being on the “chocolate route” – but I do admit to making truffles with real Jaffa orange essence, and reading your blog makes up for the limitations… kind of

    Once again cheers… 8^)

  • Amanda: I have an uncle who lives in Jerusalem. He makes harps and lyres! So someday, my wish for your offer to make homemade almond milk for me make come true.

    Or vice versa!

  • David Hi,
    To digress from chocolate for a moment… Harps & Lyres – too cool! Won’t ask how he got into that, but shall wonder to myself… hmmmm

    Honestly, if you ever do come out this way you are very welcome to come and partake of some almond milk chez moi.

    I also happen to be around the corner from the BEST masabaha (morning hummus) place in Tel Aviv (number 2 in all of Israel) – and I would love to intro you to a genuine Israeli nitty gritty real thing no tourists kind of food/place – no test tastes but absolutely the real thing. Also, it has the added attraction of not looking or tasting anything like normal hummus. The general reaction is a turned down nose, then a look of amazement as they wipe the plate clean, then a look of disappointment that there isn’t any more.

    As an added bonus, it is all of 4 minutes walk to the Jaffa Flea Market, and 8 minutes walk to the beach or the old city.

    Donc, whenever you arrive you are more than welcome!
    a

  • They are really easy to get in New York. Sahadi’s and Kalustyan’s carry them, as mentioned in previous comments. Also, right by Curry Row (6th St btw 1st Ave and Ave A), there are several Indian grocers who have them (fresh–not dried–dates too!), mostly on Ave A, I think. I have friends who eat the whole green almond, fuzzy skin and all. They taste almost like a tart green apple, but, um, nuttier.

  • I’ve eaten them whole too (didn’t know you were supposed to peel them) and I thought they tasted like guava.

  • The almond in that first photo looks so neat, like a piece of art deco jewlry or something.

  • I saw the link to this post at foodandwine.com. Thank you! I’m going to France for a friend’s wedding next week; as a vegetarian who’s allergic to eggs, I wondered just what I would eat. Thank you for reminding me about the unique treats I’ll be able to enjoy over there!

  • Hi david,
    I am French and I ve just seen your great blog.
    It’s actually funny because I am trying to find french people (who live in USA) food blog and I have fallen on yours ( american who praticly live in Paris). There is just one french and a bit american food blog Le hamburger et le croissant which is the only one that I find amazing. It is talking about yours and that’s why I am here, happy to see that other people try to find foreign recipes .
    thanks again

  • For years I have been dreaming of finding some way to get green almonds and then I saw my first green almonds this week at the Zion Market on 13th Avenue and 40th street in Borough Park. They are delicious! What would we do without Brooklyn?