Some call it Green Garlic; others know it by Spring Garlic and in my humble opinion it’s just Baby Garlic. No matter what name you give it, everyone should know about this young immature garlic that is harvested before the cloves have begun to divide. The tender young stalks are fully green, typically about one foot long, and therefore the bulb resembles that of a green onion or a scallion, rather than a segmented head of mature garlic that most people are familiar with.
Many large grocery stores do not stock Green Garlic; however it can often be found for sale at farmers markets starting in the early spring time. When shopping for it you want to select only the sturdiest and crispest stalks that do not appear wilted, and you should also check for mold and mildew on the stalks as this would be a sign that it was not stored correctly and could adversely affect the flavor. You will only be able to store your Green Garlic in the refrigerator for three to five days, therefore make certain to use it up as it will not cure and dry down like full size mature garlic. With a little extra effort it may last longer when stored in a glass of shallow cold water which you must change out daily.
You may however want to grown it at home as it is relatively easy to grow from larger garlic bulbils, such as Rocamboles, or from the small cloves from seed garlic. It can be planted shallow and mounded like one would do with leeks or rather deep to have more of the tender white stalk available. We have planted them as deep as five inches and had the tender stalks come up beautifully.
Green Garlic, unlike its mature garlic bulb parent, is a ninety day plant and not length of day sensitive. While the full size garlic bulb is a long day plant which requires the long days of June for it to mature, Green Garlic can be planted in successive increments allowing you to have a continuous supply of fresh garlicky goodness all summer long and into late fall. The bulbils or small cloves from seed garlic can be planted in the fall allowing you to have the earliest possible spring crop.
The flavor of Green Garlic continues to be garlicky, however is much milder with less of a pungent bite then matures garlic cloves. When cooked, it sweetens in the same manner as mature garlic, giving a new layer of depth to a dish. In contrast to mature whole bulbs of garlic, the entire plant, including the leaves of Green Garlic is often used in cooking. Green Garlic may be used raw or cooked in an exceedingly broad assortment of cuisines. If you are feeling adventurous this coming spring check out your local farmers market or online resources for Green Garlic and give your taste buds a little kick.
Watch for our next article on Garlic Scapes.