I have a confession to make. I’m in love with garlic! OK, I feel better now that I’ve got that off my chest. I like it fresh, dried, and I even like it pickled. To keep us supplied with garlic, we grow lots of it. Last year in late October I planted about 250 garlic cloves. We should start harvesting the earliest varieties here in July.
But by this time of year, our garlic supplies are starting to run low. And some of what’s left is starting to sprout. Sprouting garlic has a reputation of being bitter tasting, and many chefs remove the green part or else don’t use those cloves at all. Some folks like to slice up the sprouting cloves and dehydrate them. The Running Garlic has a great tutorial on how to do that.
I can’t really say I notice a bitter taste, but sprouting garlic does seems to lose that pungent garlic taste that I love. Recently I found a new way to use those sprouting garlic cloves: I plant them to use for green garlic. More about that in a minute. But first, what exactly is green garlic?
Green garlic is to mature garlic what a green onion or scallion is to a mature onion. Trimmed up and ready for use, green garlic actually looks a lot like a scallion. But the taste and aroma are all garlic. Both the white and green parts can be used.
The conventional way to grow green garlic is to plant it in the ground like you do your regular crop of garlic. It’s a good way to use some of your smaller planting stock, since usually the largest garlic cloves are planted to make larger bulbs. It should be planted fairly close together, 2-3 inches apart, since the green garlic plants will be harvested before they get full sized. If you have garlic already growing, you can also just start pulling some of the plants in spring, before they size up. The garlic is edible at any stage of growth, it just won’t keep very long if harvested at the green stage.
Earlier this year, I decided to plant some of those sprouting garlic cloves in containers. I chose a 2 gallon sized pot and filled it with potting soil. Then I planted the individual cloves in the pot, pushing them in about 2-3 inches deep. I watered the pot, and waited for them to start growing. About a month later, I started some more in a 1 gallon pot. You can even do this with garlic you’ve bought at the grocery.
The garlic is doing well in the containers. I’ve been harvesting it as needed, to supplement our dwindling supply from last year. The flavor is fresh and garlicky, good with any dish where you would use green onions or garlic, with a pungency somewhere in between the two.
It won’t be long before our hardneck garlic starts forming scapes. The scapes are immature flower stalks, and usually removed from the garlic plants to force the energy into bulb formation. These scapes are edible, and yet another way to enjoy garlic before the main harvest is ready.
My goal is to have homegrown garlic year round. So far this year we haven’t had to buy any garlic, so the plan is working out. If you haven’t tried green garlic, many farmers are now growing it for market. Or better yet, grow it yourself. It’s easy to do!