As I sit here writing, the weather in San Diego is cold and a bit blustery. It's the middle of February, after all. Underground, white bulbs of garlic are slowly maturing, but at Chino Farms, some of these bulbs--still slender and tender--have been harvested, perhaps to thin out the crop. They're treasured by chefs and home cooks alike, as a harbinger of spring and as a perfect ingredient for a wide spectrum of dishes that call for lighter flavoring than robust, mature garlic provides.
Spring garlic, or green garlic, look rather like green onions/scallions.
Here, you can see that they're just beginning to develop a shapely bulb. Look closely, though, and you can also see that their green stems are tougher than a scallion. Cut them off and save for flavoring stock; you won't want to use them in a sauté.
Inside, these very young spring garlic, still haven't developed individual cloves. Check back at Chino in a few weeks and you'll see cloves just forming. And their flavor will be slightly more pungent.
Use these babies as you would mature garlic, taking into account their milder flavor. You can also substitute them for scallions or leeks. They're delicious roasted, minced into a vinaigrette, turned into a sauce or soup, or added to sautéed vegetables or a stir fry.
While I was at Chino's I also bought some vibrant purple sprouting broccoli, so last night I gently sautéed thin slices of the spring garlic in extra virgin olive oil to release the flavor, then added the trimmed broccoli with its stems and leaves, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Once the vegetables were "this close" to finished I squeezed in juice from a Meyer lemon from my garden, let the mixture caramelize a little, then took it off the heat. To get a little crunch and sweetness, I topped it off with some freeze-dried corn kernels I'd found at Savory Spice Shop in Encinitas. The result was a colorful, sweet medley of textures and flavor. Spring is coming.