You’ve probably seen it, at the farmer’s market or in your local grocery, but I’ll bet you passed it by. That’s understandable, since its looks can be confusing: is it just a bunch of over-grown green onions? Maybe some oddly stunted leeks, or something weird and scary? Trust me, this is one unfamiliar, unassuming vegetable you need to get acquainted with.
It’s early March, not quite spring but you can feel it coming on. The earth feels it too: days are visibly longer, nights are shrinking, and things are shaking in the greenhouse and the garden. Garlic cloves tucked into earthy beds last winter have come alive, bright green shoots rocketing toward the vernal equinox. Hungry for light, they grow as if enchanted at this fading edge of winter, and I couldn’t be happier. The emerald blades poking through the soil mean green garlic time is here, and I don’t intend to waste it.
These tender shoots of young garlic exist for a few brief weeks each year, and it’s well worth your while to seek them out. Why should you bother? If you love garlic, I don’t need to tell you–you already know. If you like it, consider this: flavor that’s not quite garlic, not quite leek, but a bit of both–less bite than one, more complexity than the other. A little sweet, a little spicy, and a little meaty, green garlic is a subtle prize with many tasty applications.
My favorite way to eat it is sauteed with mushrooms in a dab of butter, then beguiled into an omelette with a little goat cheese. It’s delicious as a base for pesto too, in scrambled eggs, with wilted greens, in a creamy soup, or any way that strikes your fancy. Try some this weekend–and savor the sweet soul of spring.
This essay was aired as part of the Perspectives series on KQED-FM on March 18, 2011