Garlic sprouts are more commonly known as garlic scallions in the US and UK. Typically they are garlic that is harvested when still very young, before the bulb has started to swell and when the leaves are still tender. Plants are approximately 30cm tall. They are very similar in size and age to spring onions (known as shallots in some states).
Plant cloves for garlic sprouts in rows in the ground, or in large pots, with only a few millimetres between cloves. It is a great way to use up small cloves, bulbils and cloves that are sprouting too late in the year to allow time for full sized bulbs to develop.
Home gardeners can grow them in a pot on a windowsill or in odd corners of the garden.
Garlic sprouts are harvested by pulling the whole plant from the soil, they are then washed and the roots trimmed and are now ready for use. The Chinese have another twist on growing garlic sprouts. They plant cloves into trenches and as the leaves grow, fill in the trenches eventually hilling up around the stems. This excludes light making the stems a pale greeny yellow and more tender when eaten.
Garlic greens (as apposed to green garlic discussed in my last article on this site) are grown in exactly the same way, but instead of pulling the whole plant from the soil, the leaves are cut about 2cm above the soil. This leaves the clove to continue growing and a few weeks later another cut can be made. Generally two or three cuts are made before the clove is exhausted. Garlic greens look very similar to the leaves of garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) but their flavour is more subtle. The top left photo shows garlic sprouts, the bottom left garlic greens.
Green garlic, garlic sprouts and garlic greens are often grown in tropical regions where it is not possible to grow a mature garlic bulb. So these forms of garlic are commonly seen in recipes from tropical parts of Asia.
The flavour of both garlic sprouts and garlic greens is delicately garlicy with the white immature bulb being the sweetest. They do not have the complex flavours of the mature, cured garlic bulb, but they can be used as a substitute in many recipes. Try slicing finely and sprinkling into salad or over any savory dish before serving. Alternatively treat them as young tender leeks and add to stir fries, soups and baked dishes. I love garlic sprouts, left whole or in bigger pieces, in curries and hearty thick soups. Slow cooking brings out the intensity of the flavour. Also try steaming them whole and serve as a vegetable with a little pink salt and a dob of butter.
Planting, harvesting and marketing garlic sprouts and greens is pretty labour intensive but it would be a way using up small cloves and bulbils, and filling the gap between the last of the stored garlic and fresh bulbs for the new season.
Article and phots by Penny Woodward
COPYRIGHT AGIA and Penny Woodward - 2013