Nestled beside the heaping displays of local asparagus at the farmers market sit bunches of thick white stalks with long green ribbons for leaves. Oversized green onions? Undersized leeks? Meet one of Ontario’s newest spring crops, green garlic.
“When we started growing garlic three years ago, we left it all to form bulbs,” says market regular Alex Chesney of Thames River Melons in Innerkip, an hour and half southwest of Toronto. “Then we noticed a market for young garlic, which offers an early taste of Ontario produce when there’s not a lot in season.”
Leave these sturdy stalks in the ground and they’ll soon form twisty scapes, which growers snap off to send more nutrients to the bulb underground. By September, the familiar fat bulb of garlic is ready to harvest. That’s three crops in one!
Chesney said most customers think the young stalks are overgrown green onions, but more and more are learning about and appreciating their mild garlicky flavour and the fact that you can use the whole stalk — white bulb and green leaves.
“They’re similar in flavour to garlic but mild enough to eat raw in salads,” she said. “We also add them to stir-fries, but our favourite thing is to brush the stalk with olive oil and cook it on a hot grill until it’s caramelized.”
Thames River began harvesting green garlic in early May and expect to continue until early June, Chesney said. The remaining garlic crop will be left in the field until fall. Another spring treasure to add to our growing list.
Buy & store
- Look for bunches of green garlic at local farmers markets and supermarkets. Organic bunches are smaller.
- Choose fresh green tops, avoiding dried ends or soggy leaves.
- As the season progresses, they begin to form immature cloves.
- Wash stalks and pat dry.
- Trim and discard root end and tougher, straggly tops of the dark green leaves.
- If using raw, use white bulb and light green parts.
- Cook whole or cut lengthwise into strips or crosswise into thin circles.
- Use green garlic in any recipes that call for green onions or garlic. It’s sharp when raw and mellows when cooked.
- Add a little minced green garlic to a classic vinaigrette. Use to dress spring greens or spoon over chicken or fish.
- Grill: Trim and toss a bunch of green garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay on hot grill and cook 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and caramelized.
- Hummus: Whiz 6 trimmed stalks with a can of drained chickpeas, olive oil and lemon juice to taste. Serve with crackers and raw vegetables. Use the same day as the garlic flavour intensifies as it sits!
- Appetizer: Poach trimmed stalks in 1/2 cup (125 mL) salted water and a splash of wine for about 10 minutes or until tender. Pat dry, arrange on a platter and drizzle with a mustardy vinaigrette.
- Risotto: Sauté finely chopped green garlic or garlic scapes in butter before adding rice and stock.
- Pesto: You’ll need 8 oz (350 g) green garlic to 1/4 cup (60 mL) each pine nuts, olive oil and grated cheese, adding salt to taste. Mix with a little cooking water and toss with hot pasta or use as a sandwich spread.
- Omelette: Sauté chopped green garlic in butter until tender, then transfer to a bowl. Add at end with cheese before folding omelette.
- Soup: Green garlic can stand alone in a spring soup or pair it with green peas or asparagus.
- Garnish: Trim bottom, slice in half lengthwise then slice thinly into long strings. Sauté in oil or butter until they shrivel into golden curls. Watch carefully as they brown quickly. Use to top soup, fish or steak.
- Dumplings: Replace garlic chives with finely chopped local green garlic in Asian pork-stuffed dumplings.
- Asparagus Green Garlic Soup
Green garlic adds a mellow background note to another local spring star, green asparagus.
6 green garlic stalks
2 tbsp butter or olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 lb (450 g) asparagus, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
4 cups (1 L) low-sodium chicken broth or water
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: 1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
Chopped fresh chives
Trim and thinly slice green garlic stalks. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat and add green garlic and onion. Cook, stirring often, until softened but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add asparagus, potato, stock and salt and pepper. Bring to boil then reduce heat. Cover and simmer until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then purée in batches in a blender until smooth. Return to saucepan and check seasoning. Heat just until hot, adding more stock or water if too thick.
Garnish with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle with chives. Serve hot or cold.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.