Jason Jasper may be the third generation of almond-growers in his family’s northern California orchard, but he’s no stodgy old farmer clinging to traditions past. In addition to opening two retail stores featuring Stewart & Jasper almonds coated in flavors like butter nut toffee and Asiago cheese, Jasper is one of the few almond farmers to sell green almonds in the spring.
In today’s global market, not many foods are truly seasonal anymore. A short 4-week window from late April to mid-May marks the emergence of green almonds, highly perishable unripe almonds picked in the early stages of growth before the shell and nut have hardened. Green almonds have a soft, gelatinous texture similar to that of a grape, with a grassy and herbaceous taste. As they ripen, green almonds harden into a crunchy white nut with delicate herbaceous flavors. “Green almonds are one of the first things in spring that you can enjoy off the tree,” Jasper says. “Not much else is ripe at that time.”
Green almonds are traditionally eaten fresh, sprinkled with sea salt, in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Green almond paste is used as a coloring paste in parts of Europe.
In the U.S., chefs special-order green almonds from growers like Jasper and use them in seasonal dishes or soak them in brine or milk to soften them for snacking; they can be eaten whole or shaved.
Now everyday cooks can get green almonds by mail order. Jasper says green almonds account for less than 1 percent of their total harvest, but “it’s very labor-intensive. We hand-pick green almonds, like cherries.” Green almonds are sold in the hull to protect their freshness. Keep refrigerated, and use within a week to ten days. When ready to use, open the hull with a paring knife and remove the soft almond carefully.
By Gretchen Roberts. Order green almonds here.