Spring is a heady time of year. Snow is melting. Temperatures are warming. Flowers are blooming. But best of all, the garlic you planted in the fall is up and growing. Those early green stalks hold much more than the promise of a summer harvest, but they also speak to a springtime delicacy… green garlic.
Just what is green garlic you ask? It is immature garlic that is harvested before the bulb fully matures. In March and April in warmer regions or perhaps June and July in colder areas, it makes its appearance at local farmer’s market, grocery stores, and even from your own garden. At this stage, it looks similar to green (or spring) onions. The bulb has not developed into individual cloves, but the bulb has begun to swell. Personally, if the leaves are less than 8″ tall, I let the garlic grow for another week to 10 days until the green part of the plant is approximately 12″ tall. Avoid harvesting garlic if the leaves are dry and brown. The leaves should be green and tender.
Using your favorite digging tool to harvest. For me, that means my hori hori. But if I did not have that option, I would reach for either a sturdy trowel or small spade. Starting several inches away from the garlic leaves, push the tool straight down into the soil at least 6″. Then rocking the tool gently back and forth, begin prying upwards. This action will loosen the roots of the garlic. Carefully lift the garlic, using the digging tool. Do not grab the leaves and pull. This action could result in separating the leaves from the bulb. For green garlic, both parts are desired.
After washing the green garlic and trimming off the roots, it is now ready to use. Since harvesting the garlic at an early stage, the flavor is mild, but still garlicky… but minus the bite that some varieties are known for. Mincing both white and green parts, add to your favorite savory dishes. Frittatas? You bet. Pesto? Terrific. Roasted vegetables? I am drooling a little. If you have other dishes that you generally make with garlic cloves, try it with green garlic.
If you grow garlic, consider planting enough that you can harvest green garlic in the spring and then harvest your regular garlic crop in summer. For those of you that thin your garlic in spring, don’t compost those plants… you have green garlic in your hands.
Go ahead and give green garlic a try. Its mild garlic flavor enhances savory dishes, evoking a taste of spring. Not growing garlic? Check out your local farmer’s market for this verdant beauty. It may just become a family favorite.