Seasonal Eats: Get Your Green Garlic!

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Green Garlic Signals the Beginning of Spring (Heather Parlato/LAist)

While we're still a bit shy of the official start to spring, every article I've read on the arrival of green garlic would beg to differ, as it's availability is widely considered the first sign of season. What exactly is green garlic? It's the first crop of garlic we get in the spring season, having a bulb at the bottom that has not yet split into cloves, and long green scallion-like stalks. It's also called young garlic, and sometimes sellers will opt for selling just garlic greens or garlic scapes (immature flower stalks), which are the greens detached from the bulb. Technically, it's picked at this stage as a way to thin out crops, but garlic at this age is highly aromatic with a very mild flavor, so it can be used differently than the mature cloves, while the greens can be used as you would scallions or chives, reserving the more fibrous tops and roots reserved for soup stock.

Garlic is something we can enjoy all year after drying, but what makes young garlic so exciting is that it's only around for about a month in spring, and it's so mild you can eat it raw in salads, on sandwiches and in pastas. It's fine to use young garlic any way you'd normally use garlic cloves, though you can use much more if you like, and reduce the cooking time, since the fresh bulbs are more delicate than cloves. I don't have unique info on young garlic, but in general, raw garlic is a good source of Calcium, Phosphorous, and Selenium, and a very good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Manganese. Garlic is also highly anti-inflammatory, boasting antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal activity, with citations of medicinal use as old as the Bible. In the garden as well, planting garlic as a companion can help throw pests of other plants off the aroma, acting as a natural deterrent. However, as many pet owners know, the onion family can be unsafe for ingestion, so it's best to fence off the garden from outdoor pets.

If you want to enjoy the greens or the bulb raw, slice it up into your favorite salad, or add it to a dressing, like Justin's green garlic vinaigrette, or this other green garlic vinaigrette with anchovies. Some other great sauce ideas include green garlic pesto or this green garlic aïoli.

Green garlic is featured in some very super-green soups, like orangette's spinach garlic soup or this artichoke and green garlic soup. As we move into fresh spring soup season, add sliced green garlic stalks at the end of cooking, or float on top when serving. If you're still enjoying your winter leafy greens, start adding spring flavor as in greens & green garlic. Warm some in melted butter for a subtle and delicious pasta with green garlic. If you're grilling, make yourself a nice side-dish of grilled green garlic.

I decided to try using the bulbs in a yogurt-based alternative to ranch dressing. I love ranch, but if I eat ranch, I will turn into a ranch, so yogurt it is.

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Lemony Green Garlic Yogurt Dressing (Heather Parlato/LAist)

Lemony Green Garlic Yogurt Dressing

1 cup whole yogurt [substitute lower fat if you like]

3 tbs canola oil [I had garlic confit, so I added 4 cloves garlic confit plus 3 tb garlic confit oil. feel free to add any flavored oil you think will work well.]

3 bulbs green garlic, white parts only, chopped

zest of 2 lemons

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Add everything to the blender and blend to a pulpy consistency. Store in a bottle or serve immediately.