Garlic is one of those magic ingredients that can add flavour to almost any savoury dish. Often the unsung hero, used to elevate other ingredients, this deliciously pungent bulb is the secret to success in everything from curries to salad dressings. If you find yourself automatically doubling the garlic in every recipe, don’t miss these five recipes for garlic lovers. And if you’re looking for a new garlic experience, allow us to introduce you to garlic’s little brother.
What is green garlic?
Green garlic is, quite simply, garlic that has been harvested early. Farmers always plant extra garlic to make up for any seeds that fail to germinate, and by springtime the fields need thinning out to avoid overcrowding. Luckily, these early-harvested plants don’t go to waste, as they have a delicious flavour all of their own, and these days they are so in demand that some growers harvest all of their garlic early.
The flavour profile of green garlic is similar to regular garlic but milder, with fresher, brighter notes that make it perfect for spring dishes. The overall effect has been compared to a cross between a scallion and a leek. In appearance, it resembles a large scallion, with an immature bulb that has not yet separated into cloves.
Green garlic is sometimes confused with garlic scapes, which have a similar grassy garlic flavour. But in fact, these two ingredients come from different parts of the plant, and also tend to be taken from different garlic varieties. Green garlic is the immature bulb of soft-necked garlic varieties grown in temperate or warmer climates, while garlic scapes are the flowering stalks of hard-necked varieties grown in cooler areas.
Green garlic facts
Green garlic has all the health benefits of garlic, given that they are essentially the same plant at different stages of growth. Garlic is highly nutritious calorie for calorie, providing a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C and selenium, as well as smaller amounts of several other vitamins and minerals.
It is known for its many health benefits, which include reducing high blood pressure, and lowering ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. It also contains potent antioxidants, which, combined with its blood pressure and cholesterol lowering properties, may help protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s.
If you’re lucky enough to have some green garlic and want to know what to do with it, here are some of our favourite green garlic recipes for you to try.
Green garlic pesto: this simple pesto from The Spruce Eats uses green garlic instead of basil for a garlicky springtime flavour that tastes great on pasta and sandwiches, or as a sauce for chicken or fish.
Roasted green garlic: this handy how-to guide from The Spruce Eats shows you how to make basic roasted green garlic, a versatile ingredient that can be spread on crackers and crusty bread, or used to top hummus, lentils or soups.
Roasted green garlic sauce: this wonderfully aromatic sauce from Farm Fresh to You is made with white wine and green garlic seasoned with leeks, celery and thyme. It tastes delicious poured over grilled asparagus, potatoes and salads, and it can even be reduced down a little more to make a sandwich spread.
Alice Waters’s spaghetti with green garlic: this 15 minute, 6 ingredient pasta dish from Serious Eats is based on a garlic spaghetti recipe from legendary founder of Chez Panisse, Alice Waters. The sauce is a simple combination of 3 garlic bulbs, a pinch of parsley, salt and red pepper flakes, all cooked together in lots of olive oil until irresistibly soft and fragrant.
Green garlic risotto: this fresh spring risotto from Salt Pepper Skillet replaces the onion with the tender white parts of the green garlic, and adds a purée made from the greens at the last minute for a vibrant colour and flavour.
How to use it in the kitchen
Green garlic is a versatile ingredient and can be prepared in many interesting ways. Here are just a few of the ways you can use green garlic in your kitchen at home.
Fresh green garlic is typically used as an aromatic. The bulb and tender parts of the stem can be used in much the same way as other aromatics, including regular garlic, onions, scallions, leeks or shallots. They can be sautéed with vegetables or meat, or used to add flavour to curry bases, soups, stews and sauces.
The tougher parts of the stem are also full of flavour, and can be used to infuse a dish with flavour while cooking, like a bay leaf, then removed afterwards. You can also use them with other vegetable scraps to make an aromatic vegetable stock.
Like regular garlic, green garlic is delicious roasted, with a mild, sweet and soft texture, so you can spread it like a paste. Take a look at our recipe section for a recipe link and serving suggestions.
If you have a dehydrator, you can make your own green garlic powder, which is great for making spice blends, or simply sprinkling over anything that needs a hint of garlic. This is a great idea if you have a lot of green garlic, as it can keep for a year or even more.
Another easy way to preserve green garlic is to freeze it. Simply cut it into usable chunks before freezing, and you can add pieces to your cooking as and when you need them. For extra flavour, try roasting the garlic before you freeze it.
Green garlic also tastes great pickled in vinegar and brine. It can be eaten whole, as a tasty snack, served with cheese and crackers or diced and added to salads and vegetable dishes.
Fermenting green garlic adds a delicious, tangy flavour, and is also a good source of the ‘friendly’ bacteria that can help maintain a healthy digestive system. It tastes great sprinkled on eggs, mushrooms or pasta, and a few drops of the brine can add real depth of flavour to a Bloody Mary.