Green almonds are — as the name suggests — young almonds with a downy, green outer skin that’s the texture of a peach and the size of a tiny plum. In a month, that green skin will become a hard nutshell that you’ll crack off and throw away… but for now, you can actually bite into it.
Inside, the pale green almond is a soft, sweet, almost jellied shot of chlorophyll. The taste? Somewhat unique: It’s tart, kind of like a greengage crossed with celery. But you’ll just have to try one for yourself.
“I grew up in Israel eating green almonds,” explains chef Nir Mesika of Timna (109 St. Marks Place, NYC, 646-964-5181), a modern Israeli restaurant that will celebrate its first birthday in the East Village this month. “To me, they’re one of the tastes of Passover. My mum loved to make salads with them to go alongside fish or lamb. My favorite was a salad of green almonds, sliced with arugula, cilantro, celery leaves, lemon, olive oil, and a little bit of crushed tomato on top. That next to some chicken tagine… perfect.”
Slicing the green almonds is a smart move, since the skin can get tough — especially as April rolls into May. As the season gets later, you can soak green almonds in salt water to soften them and give them a briny marinade. Or you can soak them in lemon juice and serve them with yogurt, suggests Mesika. “So good!”
This week at Timna, Mesika is preparing a raw salad of shaved celery and cauliflower, topped with hamachi ceviche and sliced green almonds. “I wanted to really focus on the unique, raw flavor,” Mesika says. “So I kept all the other ingredients raw as well. It’s a very fresh salad — very intense and bright.”
“People who love green almonds are all excited about them, because the season is so short,” Mesika explains. “I have friends from Tunis, Muslim friends, and I’m Israeli — but politics goes away when we talk in our common language: food. It’s important that we all keep focusing on what we have, the simple stuff in life that brings us together.”
Another thing they have in common? The hard-won search for green almonds in New York City.
In the hunt for green almonds, Middle Eastern grocery stores are your best bet. Oriental Pastry and Grocery had a box on Monday, which sold out immediately. They can’t say for sure when another box will arrive. Chef Mesika gets his from SOS Chefs, which imports them from California (you can fill out a request form online if you want to get in on the action).
“Atef [Boulaabi, the owner] is as excited as I am about them!” says Mesika. “Don’t get me wrong. I love all almonds: roasted, salted, raw, cooked, everything… but green almonds are special. It’s important to mark the seasons and appreciate them.”