2007_04_greenalmond.jpgWith many local short-season spring vegetables out of commission (ramps, pea greens), at least for a while, one nutty underdog is currently available at many small Middle Eastern, Russian, and Ukrainian produce markets throughout lower Brooklyn and parts of Queens- green almonds. Because they are only available for 3-4 weeks each year, green almonds are usually overlooked, or are considered too hard to find. Some people dismiss the olive-sized green things as too much kitchen work; everything depends on how far along the almond inside the furry green casing is- we’ll explain, because other than the two links above, there’s not a lot of literature on the subject. If you’re waiting for fiddlehead ferns, you’re not feeling all the bulky white asparagus, or you just want to try something new, here’s what you need to know:

- They come from California, most of the time. The name refers to the both the ghost-white almond inside and the soft, cerignola-green shell that surrounds it. Green almonds are like nature’s tennis balls, in that they’re fuzzy on the outside and, well, that’s it. They probably don’t bounce.

- Like walnuts, almonds harden after harvest. The pale green, egg-shaped exterior you see here wizens into the pointy, holey, familiar brittle almond shell everyone knows and loves, if left alone. Don’t ever leave green almonds alone, or feed them after midnight.

- When soft enough, you can roll these suckers in some fleur de sel and olive oil and eat the whole thing; here’s where it gets tricky. Green almond season is very short, and typically within a matter of days, both the outer shell and almond within change in character and taste. The outer portion becomes more bitter and inedible; the inner almond goes from a litchi-like gel with a grassy flavor to a more milky solid with the tiniest hint of amaretto. If you’re not sure what kind of green almonds you’ve got, use a paring knife and just go for the goods, the inside. When in doubt, always trust the almond, doubt the shell; some cultures ignore the outer shell entirely, even when soft.

- You don’t have to go to the greenmarket. Better, small Russian or Middle Eastern produce places carry green almonds. The ones in this picture were found on the corner of East 5th and Ditmas Avenue in Kensington across from CVS, for $3.99 a pound. Gothamist found green almonds in some parts of Brighton Beach last week for a dollar more; if you don’t feel like making the trip, Sahadi’s might have what you need.