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Green Green Grass of Home

By Heidi Lewis

Green garlic is the biddy little baby of grown-up garlic. The bulbs of garlic wrapped in white papery skins that are our kitchen talismans and cooking standbys are the mature members of the allum family. These green scallion-like stems are the baby shoots. They are the by-product of the garlic-growing process. To make room for the bulbs to mature, the little shoots are thinned out—plucked from the ground before they are all growed up.

When farmer Darryl Wong of Santa Cruz-based Freewheelin’ Farm walks along the feathery green rows of garlic grass, stooping and thinning—his theme song may well be “Green, Green Grass of Home,” the song that Porter Wagoner made a hit in 1965. A garlic field needs a theme song—since the farmer has to watch it every week. They have garlic greens to pick and garlic scapes to trim in order to cultivate the plant to drive its vital plant energy into the big garlic bulb.

The mild garlic greens are a welcome spring treat to those who are not in love with clove garlic. In his article for the New York Times, Daniel Patterson, chef and owner of Coi restaurant in San Francisco, calls green garlic the defanged garlic. “Green garlic is a transformational ingredient, one that can remain in the background while making the elements around it better. It loves all things spring: new onions and potatoes, lamb, artichokes, fava beans, peas.” He adds, “Unlike mature garlic, green garlic is difficult to overuse.”

Preparation: Clean and chop as you would leeks or scallions. Use the stem up to dark green. No need to peel the outer layer.

Storage: Place the shoots like flowers in a jar of water in the refrigerator and cover with a plastic bag. Or wrap a damp paper towel around the stalks and place loosely in a plastic bag in the fridge.

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