Dear Readers, I'm sorry for the following sentences I am about to write. Even though it is still snowing in most parts of the country, it appears to be springtime in San Francisco. The almond, plum and cherry trees are blooming, hyacinths and daffodils are coming up, and the hills are lush & green. The first asparagus shoots and green garlic, two harbingers of Spring, have arrived at the farmer's markets.
Green garlic looks very much like a scallion or a baby leek; they are long and slender, with green shoots/green shafts that fades to a purplish white at the base. Green garlic is basically the young garlic plant; the white base fills out and becomes the garlic bulb as the plant matures. When farmers plant their garlic crops, they thin out the overabundant shoots to thin out the crop to prevent overcrowding. Green garlic was originally sold as an "extra" so it wouldn't be wasted, but became so popular that demand rose.
Green garlic is available for a short window in the spring, between February and May. In the San Francisco area, I've seen it at the local Bay Area farmer's markets, Rainbow Grocery, and the Berkeley Bowl. Use within a few days, the green garlic won't last as long as leeks do. Select stalks that are firm and upright, with no drooping. The entire plant can be eaten. Finely slice/chop and add anywhere you would add regular garlic; the flavor of green garlic is milder and a little nuttier. When cooked, it adds a hint of sweetness.
You can easily grow your own by separating some garlic cloves from a head of garlic and planting them in soil.
Some Recipes To Try
• A few green garlic recipes, including green garlic soup and green garlic mayonnaise - Mariquita Farms
• More green garlic recipes, including green garlic gnocchi - About.com
• Penne with Green Garlic Sauce - Gourmet Sleuth
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(Image: Kathryn Hill)