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It's Easy Being Green: All About Spring's Unreal Unripe Produce

It's Easy Being Green: All About Spring's Unreal Unripe Produce

Team Beet Apr 20 , 2021

Maybe you prefer blueberries with slightly pink undersides that pop, not with sugar but, with a sweet-sour note. Maybe you crave green apples, green bananas, and rock-hard pears. Maybe, nectarines are your favorite stone fruits thanks to their lively and refreshing acid profile. And, maybe, if you love your fruit more tart than sweet, more bracing than easy going, the recent underripe fruit trend is for you.

Because many of you seek adventure in your ingredients, about five years ago, we started bringing in an array of immature stone fruits, grapes, and even, nuts. OK, not just immature – hard-core raw. Although these fruits are not for the faint of heart (or the extremely busy), often requiring time and processing to be palatable , the effort is worth it.  

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Green Almonds

Perhaps the most mainstream of the under ripe items we carry, immature almonds, which are especially popular in Spain, have several applications.

Our own Produce Pat offers this suggestion for nibbling on raw almonds with pre-dinner drinks:

“They’re absolutely great with martinis and wine; probably not as good with beer (because beer demands a bigger handful of salty or spicy peanuts). You pop the almonds open with your fingers, remove the immature nut inside, and just dip it in a little lemon or lime juice, then a touch of salt”.

Baldor owner and CEO, TJ Murphy, likes the raw white almonds chopped fine and sprinkled as a garnish over salads and soft goat cheeses.

Tip: The center of the green almond evolves throughout the season, starting out as a clear gel and solidifying into a translucent, white nut as the season progresses.  When the gel stage passes and the nut begins to form, they make incredible almond milk.

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Raw Garbanzo Beans

Raw shucked garbanzos are bright green with a lightly downy skin. Their flavor is very green and fresh, similar to peas. Because they aren’t easily digestible, it’s best to parboil them, shuck, and add them to pasta or rice dishes. You can also toss green garbanzos in a wok and sprinkle with crisp sea salt, just like edamame. This Mideast staple is wonderful cooked into soups or pureed into a surprising twist on hummus.

green strawberries

Green Strawberries

Courtesy of The Great Noma Craze of the past five years, unripe, green strawberries have taken a few trips around the block. And with good reason – they’re an exceptional ingredient. We’re especially into them pickled and served as a cheese accompaniment. Tip: While Rene Redzepi believes that each strawberry needs to be a perfectly unripe whitish-green, we haven’t found a little blush to be a problem when cooking or pickling.

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Green Apricots

This immature apricot is harvested early in the season and resembles a green almond. The fruit is strongly bitter and very almond-forward. Green apricots are traditionally used in Persian and Eastern European cuisines to make chutneys and jams, or for pickling.

Tip:  The best way to pit green apricots? Cook them, cool them, and then use a cherry pitter to easily remove the stone.

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Sour Plums

These cherry-sized green plums may seem disappointing at first, but give them a shot. Unlike green apricots which require work to enjoy, sour plums are delicious raw. In Iran, Turkey, and Lebanon, they’re commonly dipped in salt and eaten out of hand for a refreshing green spring crunch. They can also be pickled in vinegar, fine sea salt and hot pepper. Pickled green plums will keep for a month and are delicious drizzled with honey. 

You can also use unripe plums to make traditional Japanese plum wine. All you need is a bottle of Sochu (a grain or sweet potato-based liquor). 

Note: While the word "umeboshi" is often translated to Japanese salt plums, salt plums, or pickled plums, the fruit used to make this funky pickle, ume, is more closely related to the apricot. The most popular umeboshi is the tsukemono (pickle), which is is extremely sour and salty. However, some makers produce a sweet umeboshi pickled with honey.

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Sour (Green) Blueberries

You wouldn’t want to eat these raw, per se, but you can make a delicious verjus out of unripe blueberries. Verjus, traditionally made with the unripened grapes, which have been picked to thin the vines, can be used as a substitute for vinegar or citrus juice in dressings and marinades. You can make a delicious, quick verjus out of unripe blueberries, by mashing or grinding, then straining the fruit. For a fruity and only slightly acidic verjus (less acidic than vinegar), gently cook the unripe blueberries in water to soften. Green blueberries can also be salt-fermented and featured in salads, used as a sauce-enhancer like capers, or cooked down into chutneys and mostardas to serve with boiled meats.

In Southeast Asian cuisine, green tamarind or unripe blackberries are pounded together with other ingredients in a mortar and pestle, to create a vegetable dip. Green blueberries, with similar flavor profiles, could be used in the same way.

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