Here is what I love about living in California: Spring produce in February. Early February, even. The rains are here and it's gray and gloomy and yet...you know what you are likely to find at farmers markets and well-stocked produce departments in the Bay Area? Green garlic! Green garlic is the tender young plant of soft-necked garlic that, if left in peace, would grow into a garlic bulb to be harvest in summer and early fall, cured (dried) and kept to add kick and flavor to dishes all the year long. This time of year farmers start thinning the rows of garlic, making room for bulbs to grow, and those shoots they pull make their way to market. The bulbs get stronger and stronger as they're stored, and the delicate flavor of green garlic can be quite pleasing to those who find the pungency of mature garlic a bit much.
Green garlic looks like a slightly overgrown green onion or scallion, with a bit of purple towards the roots. You can use it like green onions - chopped in salads, added to stir-frys, or as a garnish on soups and stews - for a bit of a stronger, garlicky flavor.
Those of you in colder climates may find green garlic in fancy produce departments and, come spring, will see garlic scapes - the green shoots of hard-necked garlic grown in cooler areas that are removed by farmers - which you can use in pretty much the exact same way as green garlic. If you pick up a large bunch or two and want a green garlic-focused dish, try one of these recipes:
pretty much any cheese you have hanging around the fridge,
but fresh goat cheese or a mild feta are particularly lovely.
pasta, spread it on pizza, or use as a dip.
absolute perfection with a simple piece of broiled fish.
delicious way to get your vegetables.
These are ricotta gnocchi and yet are very light and springy.
Coat them with just a bit of good-quality melted butter and perhaps
a bit of lemon zest (or even Meyer lemon, if you're feeling kicky).
Recipe Wizard: localfoods.about.com
Radio Girl: eatthatradio.wordpress.com
*Top photo of spring green garlic courtesy of In Praise of Sardines.