Food

Everything You Need To Know About Green Garlic

How to store, prep and make best use of it.

Regular garlic with its papery white peels and cluster of cloves are easy to identify, but how about green garlic with its long tender stalks and green leaves? Is it the same as garlic scapes, green onions or even garlic itself? Here’s everything you need to know about green garlic.

What is green garlic?

Botanically classified as Allium sativum, green garlic is a young garlic plant that’s harvested before maturity. Also known as spring garlic or baby garlic, green garlic can be identified by its long, slender green leaves–similar to green onions and spring onions–and, depending on the stage of growth when it was pulled, a tiny undivided bulb near its roots. The latter sometimes has a pink or purple tinge.

Early-harvested garlic plants have been used for centuries in Europe and Asia, especially in India, but have recently become a popular ingredient in North America. While it was traditionally culled when farmers were thinning their garlic field, it’s now grown specifically for harvest as a crop of its own.

When is green garlic in season in Canada?

Available in late winter to early summer, the peak season for green garlic is early spring, with crops popping up around March or April.

What does it taste like?

Brighter and milder than regular garlic, green garlic has garlic’s heady, savoury aroma, but with less heat than mature garlic. When eaten raw, it tastes sharp, with subtle fresh, vegetal undertones—similar to a hybrid between scallion and leek. Like all garlic, green garlic’s taste mellows out when cooked.

How is green garlic different from scallions or green onions?

Green garlic has a similar appearance to many members of the allium family that have long stalks and tender green leaves, but there are differences between each species.

While green garlic has a similar appearance to scallions (aka green onions) or spring onions (Allium cepa)–which are all young onions at various stages of growth, harvested before the bulb has had a chance to swell–it is immature garlic.

Fresh garlic on a wooden board that is painted green.

(Photo: iStock)

Is green garlic the same as garlic scapes?

No. In contrast to garlic scapes (the flowering stalks of the mature hard-necked garlic), green garlic has tender leaves and is harvested before the garlic bulbs develop. Garlic scapes also look like thin, green, curly, straw-shaped vegetables that start tender, but get tougher as they mature. Besides having a more tender-crisp texture than soft green garlic, the flavour of scapes is stronger. However, scapes can be substituted for green garlic and vice versa.

a close up of a bunch of fresh garlic scapes

These are garlic scapes, not green garlic (Photo: iStock)

What are its nutritional benefits?

Green garlic has the same nutritional benefits as mature garlic, including a high amount of allicin, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6 and traces of iron, phosphorus, and calcium.

Where can I find green garlic?

Typically found at farmers’ markets in the spring, green garlic is sold whole, sometimes bundled as multiple stalks. In Ontario, look for them starting in March at the Uxbridge Farmers’ Market or Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market, from producers such as Ottawa Garlic, or specialty grocers like Iqbal Foods. Pick vegetables that have fresh green tops and avoid those with dried ends of dehydrated leaves.

For those who garden, you can grow green garlic from garlic seeds purchased from vendors like John Boy Farms.

How do you store green garlic, and how long does it keep?

Unlike its mature form, green garlic lasts from five to seven days if stored in the refrigerator. To keep it fresh for longer, consider wrapping it in a damp paper towel and storing it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or keeping it refrigerated in a tall glass with its roots submerged in water.

To process green garlic for storage, one option is to dehydrate it to make garlic chips or powder. Green garlic can also be frozen in an airtight container for 6 to 8 months sliced or in chunks.

How do I prep green garlic?

To use, simply wash and remove the roots at the base plus any wilted or tough leaves. Unlike garlic, there is no need to peel the immature bulb if there is one at the base of the stalk.

How do I eat them? What green garlic recipes do I use?

Versatile and flavourful, green garlic can easily be used in everyday cooking. Great raw or cooked, the entire vegetable can be consumed like leeks and green onions, and used in anything that typically employs regular garlic, green onions or leeks. One stalk and bulb of green garlic has been equated to a small onion or leek and clove of mature garlic. And since green garlic has a fresh, mild garlic flavour, you might need a little more of it if you do use it as a garlic substitute.

Green garlic pairs well with seafood, meats and poultry; try it with salmon cooked en papillote or as a ginger and green garlic sauce over steamed red snapper. It gives legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and beans a spring-fresh boost similar to bay leaf. Green garlic’s fresh flavours are complementary with spring vegetables made into a cooling vichyssoise, or as part of a creamy dip for crudités. The aromatic vegetable also plays well with herbs including mint, parsley, basil and sage, plus roots like ginger.

Sliced, it can be used as a garnish like green onions, tossed into pasta, stir-fries, risotto, or used to finish dishes like fried rice with egg. Green garlic can be used to flavour stocks, soups and chowders, taking the place of the leek and garlic in this dairy-kissed spring leek-and-garlic soup or lightening the bite in this raw green goddess soup. Blitz a bunch to make pesto, or simply dehydrate the chopped spring vegetable until crispy and use it as a seasoning.

The flat, dark green leaves can be used in salads, minced to flavour salad dressings and vinaigrettes, compound butter and sauces, mixed into eggs or stuffing. For a slight garlicky kick, top a baked potato or nachos with these greens or used in replacement of green onions in dishes like chèvre-scallion mashed potatoes and green onion flatbreads.

Crisp and succulent, the green stalks and juicy developing bulb have a nutty-oniony flavour that is great roasted or grilled in butter or olive oil, poached or braised until they are sweet and tender. They also lend themselves well to being pickled. These preparations of green garlic can be served in an antipasti platter, blended into dips or slathered on slices of toasted baguette as an appetizer; as a member in a batch of roasted vegetables; or as a vegetable side to grilled or roasted meats and poultry.

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