They are 3 to 4 cm long(1 to 1 1/2 inches), 2 cm wide (3/4 inch) and 1 cm thick (1/2 inch).
They appear at the beginning of April and are best when the seed case is just starting to get plump and there is no shell developed. At this stage, the almond inside is still “liquidy” and not yet begun to get firm.
They are really only available in early spring. After that stage, only the kernel is eaten, even though by early June the kernel is only just starting to firm up.
Green almonds can be eaten whole, though sometimes people will just take out the kernel with the jelly-like centre in it, and soak it in brine to firm up for slicing, etc.
Somewhat older almonds are soaked in their hulls in brine to leach off some of the bitterness from the tannins that are developing.
Green almonds are very tender and don’t taste much like almonds at all. Instead, they taste more like a tart, bitter pod of peas. Some people say you’re better just to wait and let the almond develop.
When almonds have developed you can just peel and eat them. In the Middle East, where they are eaten as a snack, you dip them in water then in salt and eat them out of your hand.
Green almonds can also be grated (when brined to firm them up) and used in cooking on top of baked goods.
To substitute green almonds in a cooked Arabic dish, try soaking regular dry almonds overnight with water with a bit of baking soda in it. Rinse before using.
Literature & Lore
When I have baked white cakes
And grated green almonds to spread upon them;
When I have picked the green crowns from the strawberries
And piled them, cone-pointed, in a blue and yellow platter;
When I have smoothed the seam of the linen I have been working;
— Interlude, by Amy Lowell (American poet. 1874-1925)
“Green almonds put in their annual appearance, noted at Buchanan’s Fruit Shop, Grand Central Terminal. What’s a green almond? The young sweet almond while its shell is still butter-soft, its outer covering green and tender. The white creamy kernels peeled and served raw are an excellent munch to pass with the before-dinner apéritif.” — Paddleford, Clementine (1898 – 1967). Food Flashes Column. Gourmet Magazine. July 1946.