We name the young green almonds as Chaqala Badem (Turkish) and Tsagala (Greek) in Cyprus. We Cypriots love them. As a Mediterranean island, Cyprus certainly has the ideal weather for the almonds trees to thrive and to produce these lovely offerings.
Green almonds have a slightly fuzzy outer hull encapsulating a moist and soft inner nut contents of which may be described as almost being jelly like. It is edible as a whole in this state and is often eaten dipped in crystals of salt. This stage of the almond is short lived since as the fruit matures it becomes bitter and the outer hull dries and splits up. The inner nut almost metamorphosizes, eventually forming the hard shell and the kernel which we are all familiar with….the almond nut itself, the versatility of which surely cannot be argued.
When we were children Chaqala/Tsagala used to be a great treat for us. As soon as spring arrived we would wait eagerly for them to appear. We would watch the almond blossoms and despite their beauty wish them to be replaced by the little green gems that we loved so much. They were so tasty. We would find it difficult to contain our excitement as we dipped the newly washed ( ate them unwashed as well when adults were not around ) almonds into small mountains of salt and see the crystals getting stuck onto the skin of the green fruit. The best way to eat them (the most fun anyway) was to have salt in a cupped hand and dip the young almond into the salt with the other hand. The neighbours did’t bat an eyelid when their trees were targeted by endless number of children, those more brave and agile even climbing up the trees to the higher branches. Our pockets would bulge with our rich pickings.That was part of being a child in Cyprus. It was exactly what they had done when they were kids themselves.
It is amazing how the picture of a small green immature fruit can trigger such profound memories. I am sure when my husband was taking this photograph and forwarding it to me all the way to England from Cyprus, he was also sending me a fragment of his own childhood and a fragment of mine.
I cannot imagine a better present than that.