Green Almonds in Ramallah

15 April, 2022

 

Green almonds in Pales­tine (pho­to cour­tesy Islam Essa).

 

Wafa Shami

 

East­er in Ramal­lah, by Wafa Sha­mi, illus­trat­ed by Shaima Farouki.

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.

Wafa Sha­mi finds green almonds in San Jose, California.

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.

 

almondsPalestinePalestinian cuisineRamallahzaatar

Wafa Shami is a food blogger and children’s book author. She describes herself as “a humanist, feminist, and a mother who is passionate about food and loves to cook and share with others.” Wafa grew up in Ramallah, Palestine and moved to the US where she graduated with a Masters in International Studies. Before launching Palestine in a Dish, she spent several years working with nonprofits, including the American Friends Service Committee.

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