Unlike the wild almonds that bloom in January, sweet almonds blossom in early February, reaching their peak towards March. During this period the orchards are covered in spectacular pink and white blossoms and a stroll through is a breathtaking experience. After flowering, the trees turn green and fruits appear. The almonds are harvested during the hottest months, in July and August. After drying in the sun for approximately seven days, they are cracked open and their shells removed. Large and sweet Israeli almonds are marketed directly from the orchard, as is, without any additional processing.
“In my opinion, Israelis do not consume enough fresh almonds,” says Oren Hexter, the owner of Masik Kibbutz Magal, “my goal is to promote the consumption of almonds beyond salt-roasted almonds or almond meal”. The following recipe calls for ‘Umm al Fahm’ or ‘Hassan’ almonds, a delicious, large local variety that is high in fat, but you can also use green almonds: “I think they are the tastiest. Arabs and Mizrahi Jews consume plenty of green almonds, and I think that they should also be introduced to the general public who hardly consume them. You can chop and add them to a salad or prepare a spread, like in the following recipe.”
Kibbutz Masik Magal grows four almond varieties in their orchards, covering an area of 70 hectares: Umm El Fahm, 53, 54, and Napa.
- 1 cup (100 grams/ 3½ oz) fresh ‘Hassan’ almonds (also known as ‘Umm al-Fahm’)
- 1 bunch (2 cups) parsley, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
- 1 bunch (2 cups) cilantro, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 green chili peppers, without the stem
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 tablespoons Arbequina olive oil
- Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 20 minutes. Drain, cover again with boiling water and blanch for 40 minutes. Drain and sliver the almonds.
- Transfer the almonds to the bowl of the food processor, add the remaining ingredients and process to a smooth paste. The zhug will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.