It’s green garlic season, and I’m thrilled. I stopped by the Capay Organic stand at the farmer’s market a couple of weekends ago and saw the hand-lettered sign: Green Garlic, $2 a handful. It was noon– close to time for the stand to be packed up and its remaining delicious wares taken– where, I wonder? I stood there, carefully selecting a few choice stalks, (I was picking out the most bulbous specimens), and calculating what constituted a “handful.” It should be noted that I have particularly small hands, and will win any “small hand” comparison contest to which I am invited to press palms. On the bright side, I save money on snowboarding gloves by buying kids’ sizes. Suddenly, the friendly proprietor swooped in. “Let me show you a handful!,” he exclaimed, scooping up 5 times the amount of green garlic I was holding into his substantial farmer’s grasp. And so, I ended up with a full bag containing far more green garlic than I had planned for. It seemed a crime not to put it to good use.
Green garlic is immature garlic; if left in the ground, the small bulbs would develop into the recognizable head, with individual cloves in paper-like wrappings, to which we’re all accustomed. Plucked early, they are milder than mature garlic, and can be treated more like scallions; their flavor landing somewhere between the two. Even the green shoots are edible, if still relatively tender. I’ve julienned them, in past years, and tossed them with pasta, olive oil, and good grated Parmesan, to a pleasant result.
Prepare green garlic for use most simply, however, by first just trimming any of the green shoots that have grown tough or wilted, and cutting the roots off. If the outer (likely purplish) end of the bulb seems tough, remove the first layer of that, too. Then dice, and you’re ready to go. Due to its subtler aspect, green garlic can be used in much greater quantities than mature garlic, without overpowering the dish.
So what did I do with my bounty? The first night, I incorporated vast sliced quantities of it into a riff on a Scandinavian-style yellow split pea soup, with plenty of Swedish mustard to up the piquancy brought to the table by the garlic, and chicken stock for body and underlying flavor. Diced ham brought the salt and umami.
A few nights later, I sent the remainder into the sizzling, quickly-browning aromatics destined for a chicken and spring vegetable biryani. The brown Basmati rice, stir-fried with a hot curry paste, made a fluffy home for sauteed radishes, Nantes carrots, onions, raisins, almonds, and of course, the green garlic.
I do believe I’m ready to acquire another handful.