Springtime is unique in Palestine as the high amount of rainfall during the winter season enhances the appearance of a wide variety of plants and flowers. Almost everywhere you go, particularly in the countryside, you see greenery, flowers and trees blooming, all nurtured and washed by the winter rain. When Spring arrives, nature is ready to show off its beauty and abundance with a broad range of colorful flowers and herbs.
The season takes off with the observation of Mother’s Day, which is widely celebrated across the Arab world on March 21st. The purpose of celebrating it in Spring is that it’s the season where the flowers blossom, symbolizing how motherhood is life.
Spring carries a great number of herbs that are unique to this season, such as wild thyme (za’atar barri), dandelion (hindbeh), bull mallow (khoubezeh) and so many others that are used in delicious recipes which are unique within the Palestinian cuisine. Not to forget the poppy anemone (shaqa’eq al nouman) flower that is special to Palestine, with its beautiful red deep color.
Spring was a very special time for me growing up in Ramallah. Back then, before all the high rise buildings took over, Ramallah was a cute little town, full of beautiful tall trees that I enjoyed everywhere I walked, going up and down the small hills around different parts of the city, which I especially loved on those sunny warm spring days.
My mother used to say “athar el ghadar,” March can be sneaky because it can turn into cold brutal days, and we’ve had occasions where it even snowed in March! However, I took pleasure in the blooming of the trees that I observed in my father’s backyard, most particularly the green almond trees, which when they bloom carry the most beautiful pinkish flowers, that then turn into these little buds that become an edible delicious snack, fury and crunchy from the outside, soft and watery on the inside.
As kids, we waited impatiently for when the almonds were going to be big enough to eat! While the green almond season only lasts a few short weeks, everyone rushes to enjoy eating this fresh sour snack dipped in salt.
Later and for years, when I lived on the East Coast in the US, I would crave the green almonds of Ramallah, which you could hardly find anywhere. However, here in California, which has been my home now for more than a decade, we share a similar climate to Palestine, and almond trees can be found on public streets. One time while I was meeting a friend in Berkeley and we were walking down the street, I came across a few trees on the sidewalk, and I jumped in excitement while picking the almonds and eating them, with my friend’s astonishment at what I was doing; she expressed that she’d never heard of or tried such a thing!
Surprisingly, while California produces 80% of the world’s almonds and 100% of the U.S. commercial supply, to the native residents, green almonds are completely unheard of.
To me the season is not complete without enjoying this unique snack, and picking them fresh from a tree adds a bonus to the taste. I am lucky enough to have some trees around where I live that I can enjoy, and where my son has had the opportunity to experience some of what I grew up with. He impatiently waits for the season when we can go together to pick some and enjoy eating green almonds together.