Last year I picked up some green walnuts to tinker with, the notable end results of which were nocino, walnut bitters, and walnut-kola amaro. The thing about green walnuts -- "green" with nuts means "immature, unripe, still developing," like with tomatoes -- is that you can't just eat them. You have to either use them as a flavoring -- using them to infuse wine or liquor -- or laboriously process them to remove the inedible bits and the tannins. This is, you know, basically why we leave them on the tree most of the time.
But green almonds are a horse of a different color, or a ... some different animal ... of the same color. They're another thing. Almonds are a member of the prunus family, like apricots, cherries, peaches (and their naked siblings the nectarines), and plums. If you open up an apricot, the pit is almond-shaped -- so is the kernel inside a peach pit. Not a coincidence.
Green almonds are in season in April and May, generally. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find them at Whole Foods or Trader Joes, farmers markets (in California, where nearly all American almonds are grown), or Middle Eastern markets.
You can see in this superlarge photo especially -- which you may need to click through to really see -- that in a green almond we have a crispy fruit surrounding the kernel that will eventually become the nut. There are two stages of green almond: the gelatinous stage, when the kernel is wet and juicy inside and the surrounding fruit is edible; and the later stage, when the kernel is firmer and the fruit can no longer be eaten. These are from towards the end of the gelatinous stage.
The fruit is firm and somewhat tart -- not enough to make you pucker or anything, but tart. It tastes nothing like an almond -- it tastes a bit like grass or alfalfa sprouts, a lot like snap peas, but with that tartness. It's a little mouth-drying, so the wet kernel in the middle is welcome. Traditionally green almonds are eaten cut in half and dipped in salt or sugar, which rounds out the flavors.
You can cook 'em. They're served braised with lamb sometimes, and I've frozen some for that purpose at some later date -- it may be lamb season right now, but it isn't braising weather (despite the dips back down into the cold lately), and besides, I've got that leftover turkey.
Cooked, the green color quickly turns a sort of khaki-olive, and the raw-vegetable taste naturally turns to cooked-vegetable.
Again a big photo. Trying to show you these close-up. Those are fried green almonds with salt and a little sumac. Just straight-up fried in a little hot oil, and man, they are pretty damn awesome. Addictive like a bar snack.
I'm candying some of them -- whole, pieces, and just kernels -- to see what happens. Might could pickle some.
And this happened too:
Malted creme fraiche ice cream, fried green almond kernels -- still warm, which is why the ice cream started melting while I grabbed the camera! -- a little Lyle's golden syrup, and a little sumac. Terrific.
But I better tell you how to make the ice cream.
You remember I made creme fraiche to go on my homemade bagels. That's real simple and much cheaper than buying creme fraiche at the store: bring a cup of heavy cream up to warm on the stove, dump it in a container with a spoonful of cultured buttermilk, and let them sit in a warm place (like the stovetop) for at least overnight, and maybe a day and a half. The culture will thicken the cream, and you want it fairly thickened, like melted ice cream or thin yogurt. Refrigerate it to bring it cool again.
Now, the thing about creme fraiche as opposed to most other cultured dairy products -- yogurt and buttermilk and all -- is that it still has all that butterfat, which means it's whippable, just like cream. (Keep that in mind for frosting your carrot cakes and hummingbird cakes.)
Take equal amounts chilled creme fraiche and heavy cream -- this is my preferred ratio, taste-wise, but do whatever you like -- and whip them with sufficient sugar (it should taste a little sweeter than you want) and a few hefty spoonfuls of malted milk. Freeze. Super-simple.