One sure sign it’s spring is when restaurants and farmers markets start touting the arrival of ramps. While that branch of the allium family may be what’s trendy right now, other less well-known tender greens also deserve their fair share of the attention. Take, for instance, green garlic.
At first glance, green garlic can easily be mistaken for scallions or spring onions, but fresh green garlic is far more aromatic than store-bought green onions.
“The whole studio now smells like this green garlic that I’ve brought in, so I wouldn’t say that it’s very, very mild, but it’s not as sweet and not as earthy [as cloves of garlic],” explained chef Jacques Gautier, who grows green garlic on the rooftop of his Park Slope, Brooklyn, restaurant Palo Santo. “With the green garlic, you can use more of it, because it’s not quite as pungent and spicy. It’s more of an aromatic herb.”
Green garlic is the earliest incarnation of the same plant that produces the heads of garlic commonly used year round. Gautier notes that green garlic is at its most delicious right now, before the leaves get tough. Eventually, the leaves will give way to the shoot, or garlic scape, also a prized springtime vegetable.
“With the green garlic, you can use more of it, because it’s not quite as pungent and spicy — it’s more of an aromatic herb,” explained Gautier. He uses it in the various sauces at the restaurant, including chimichuri, a South American green sauce that’s popularly used on grilled meat.
“Another thing that we do with it now, when it’s really young and tender like these that I brought in, is just grill it [with] a little olive oil, salt and pepper, put it on the plancha and sear it, and then serve it as a garnish or vegetable,” added Gautier.
While spring is the best time to enjoy green garlic, the minimal amount of work that goes into growing it begins in the fall. Gautier explains that he just breaks apart a head of garlic and plants the individual cloves.
“It’s very easy to grow, it doesn’t even require watering or anything like that,” he said. “We plant them after the first frost in the fall, and then we don’t bother with them until the springtime, and then in the springtime they just come up on their own.”
There’s just one simple instruction to follow: “You want to make sure you’re not planting them upside down,” he said.
Once the cloves are buried in the dirt, sprout-side up, then it’s just a waiting game. Growing them in a container or backyard also means there’s no fear of sustainability issues related to foraging. That alone makes it a good alternative to ramps.
Try Gautier's recipe for chimichuri sauce using green garlic, below.
"This is a good summertime recipe for all types of grilled meat and game. This recipe makes enough for 12 large steaks. It is something that keeps well in a jar in the fridge for at least a few weeks." —Jacques Gautier
- 1 bunch Parsley
- ½ bunch Cilantro
- ¼ bunch Oregano
- ¼ bunch Thyme
- ¼ bunch Rosemary
- ¼ bunch Chives
- 4 stalks Green Garlic or Garlic Scapes
- 1 Shallot
- 1 Red Jalapeño
- 100 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 100 ml Red Wine Vinegar
- 10g Kosher Salt
- 2g round Black Pepper
Wash, de-stem and chop all herbs. Chop chives. Rinse and chop green garlic. Peel and chop shallot. Remove seeds and chop chile.
Grill meat, rest meat, slice meat. Spoon Chimichurri over meat.