Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Marcona Almonds

Marcona almonds are not something with which I was acquainted much more than six or seven years ago: they've only become available and somewhat reasonably priced in the last few years, at least here in Virginia. I have no doubt that they've been available in New York for longer than that.

Recently at $10-$15 a pound and sure to increase because of the bashing the Euro is handing the dollar, Marconas are not cheap, but I guarantee that once you taste one, you'll agree with me that they are the crack cocaine of almonds. One tiny taste is addictive. I'm at a loss to explain why they are so good, but they are. Marconas look different as you can see in the photo: they're flatter and more disk- or heart-shaped rather than classically almond-shaped.

Marcona is a cultivar of almond (Prunus dulcis 'Marcona') that is grown along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, from Málaga to Tarragona. The hard-shelled, sweet almonds bloom in February and the harvest comes in from late August to September. The almonds are shelled and peeled, at which point, the confectioners take their traditional cut of the crop to be ground and mixed with honey in a nougat called turrón. The new crop almonds destined to be eaten out of hand are lightly fried in olive or sunflower oil, which is how we get them.

Although I have classified this post in the nuts category because almonds are used culinarily as nuts, you do realize that an almond is not a nut at all, don't you? It's the kernel inside the pit of the almond fruit.

Marcona season starts in the fall after harvest and runs until the vendors sell out. You can get them from many specialty groceries including La Tienda.

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