Green Garlic

Green Garlic is also sometimes called garlic shoots, garlic leeks, spring garlic and new garlic. Like wild harvested food, green garlic is becoming popular in the US and UK so you can be sure that Australia will soon follow suit. The French have been growing and cooking it for decades, if not centuries, and an attempt was made to grow and market it in Australia about 15 years ago. It didn’t work then because the Australian population wasn’t ready for it and didn’t understand how it could be used. But with the plethora of cooking shows, both professional and home cooks are much more adventurous and now might be the time to try growing it and selling to your local chefs or at markets. Green garlic is seasonal eating at its very best and can be used like shallots (spring onions) in salads and stir-fries.

Italian purple garlic harvested as green garlic

What is green garlic?

The term green garlic can be used for any garlic that is harvested and eaten fresh (not cured) from almost new shoots to fully grown garlic.  However, in France and China green garlic is only used to describe garlic that is harvested after about four months growth, when the bulb has started to swell but it is nowhere near full size and the cloves are not discernible. Garlic harvested after only a few weeks is better known as garlic sprouts and I will write more about these next month. Green garlic is grown under the same conditions as garlic bulbs, the main differences being that they are planted closer together, harvested earlier and the whole plant is used: bulb, stem and leaves.  Green garlic was traditionally harvested by farmers who were thinning their garlic crop.

Green garlic can be planted at the same time as bulb garlic, but harvested after only 4 months, or it can be planted later, or both. So these green stems and immature bulbs can be used to fill the gap between the last of the stored cured bulbs and the arrival of the new fully grown crop. It is valued for its mild, sweet, grassy but still distinctly garlic flavour and fresh, crunchy texture. In the US and Europe it is found in farmers markets in spring.

Green garlic is planted more closely than those grown for the bulb, usually placed 6-8 centimetres apart. A plot planted with the spacing for green garlic can all be used for green garlic, or if every second plant is harvested, the others can be left to fully develop into bulbs. In China, crops are planted in raised beds, top-dressed with fertilizer when they are about 8 centimetres high, and harvested about four months after planting. Some crops are also blanched, like leeks, to produce an even milder and more subtle flavour. To do this they are planted in flat-bottomed furrows which are gradually filled in as the plant grows. Plants are harvested when they are relatively small.

How is it used?

Green garlic is simple to use, just remove the roots and the tougher leaf ends (in the same way that you would prepare spring onions) and use the whole bulb and tender white and green stalk. Slice it and cook in butter or olive oil and use as a simple topping for pasta, or add it to soups or salads as a garnish. Fresh and sliced it is added to salads, dips and dressings. Combined with other herbs it makes a beautiful salsa verde with chicken, steak or fish. It can also be used in any recipe as a substitute for leeks, scallions or bulb garlic.  Much more complex recipes abound on the internet. Google ‘green garlic’ and have a look. You can advise your customers that green garlic stays fresh in the fridge for about two weeks. Wrap it in damp paper towel and keep in a plastic bag.

The photo shows Italian purple garlic harvested at the green garlic stage. It just needs to washed and have the roots and leaf tops trimmed and it is ready for sale or use.

Article and photos by Penny Woodward

Copyright : AGIA and Penny woodward 2013