A young almond fruit, just visible in the centre, on the branch above the oleander bush
In March we were on a tour of the ancient Greek sites of Western Turkey and looking forward to seeing Ephesus, Troy, Pergamon and Assos. Aristotle was living there when he got the call from Philip of Macedon to tutor his son Alexander. It started in the unpromising, but comfortable, surroundings of a concrete block of a hotel at Kusadasi, one of the fishing villages that has become a package tour resort.
It was a wonderful time of year with the peach orchards a froth of candy floss pink blossom, early apricot flowers and many pale lilac paulownias.
The walk to the supermarket to buy a couple of bottles of local wine (highly recommended) was down a winding road and on a bend in the distance I could see the branches of a large shrub in full leaf swaying around. It looked like an oleander but then I could see another shrub behind and three boys scampering around it. I stopped and laughed as they were eating the green oval fruits they were picking; they promptly handed a few to me to try.
The fruits were young almonds and I had no idea that they are considered a delicacy. The boys, having stripped the bush of all but the fruits at the top moved on: in the picture above, one whole young almond fruit is just visible on the branch behind and above the oleander bush.
When I tried them, the green flesh, soft shell and softer nut were pleasantly crunchy and refreshing. Then at the supermarket the first thing in the greengrocery at the entrance was a basket of young almond fruits, so they are clearly a popular snack.
This is an area rich in fruit and nuts and also dried fruits, which are often stuffed with whole nuts and on sale everywhere. One popular sort was a kind of coarse fig paste with nuts, cocoanut flakes or dried fruit.
On returning home a foraging friend told me he had enjoyed some young almonds from street trees in London. I have a recollection that ornamental almonds have fruits that are not good to eat. Does anyone have more information on this?
Tom La Dell
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