Last Updated on September 21, 2023
Contrary to popular belief, green garlic isn’t some exotic, mysterious variety of garlic. Green garlic is what you get when a crop of garlic is harvested early. Yep! It is simply young but otherwise regular garlic. Yet green garlic is far from average! It is delectably flavorful, versatile, and easy to work with! Speaking of “regular” garlic, an article all about how to plant, grow, harvest, cure, and store garlic is coming soon. The “how to grow” section will apply to green garlic as well. Stay tuned!
Typically, garlic is harvested in the summer – after a long growing season, often planted the previous fall. To allow garlic to fully mature and enhance its storage abilities, it is best practice to wait a few weeks after the garlic greens turn yellow then brown and die back before harvesting. Then, a proper drying and curing process enables the fully-mature garlic to be stored and enjoyed for many months to come. But when it is pulled early however, you have green garlic on your hands, which is quite different – in many ways!
WHAT IS GREEN GARLIC?
Also referred to as spring garlic, green garlic is harvested earlier in the season than standard garlic. Green garlic lacks the long-term storage properties of its mature future self. Therefore, it is mostly used fresh, or needs to be otherwise preserved within a week or two of harvest. We do a little of both, which we’ll talk more about in a moment.
You may find green garlic with straight stalks and hardly any curve or bulb shape at all, similar to a green onion. Or, a small bulb may have started to develop – more like a spring onion. Some of our green garlic have significantly larger bulbs, with small cloves starting to form even! No matter the stage, green garlic will lack those classic individually-wrapped garlic cloves within a papery head.
What does green garlic taste like?
Green garlic has a more verdant, onion or scallion-like flavor profile, but with notable garlicky attributes. However, the longer it is allowed to grow and develop, the more classic sharp and rich garlic flavor will shine through. Many of our larger green bulbs taste just like mature garlic!
How to obtain green garlic
Most often, green garlic is the result of farmers thinning their main garlic crop – and making good use of those thinnings! #zerowaste, right? Sometimes, green garlic is grown and harvested early with intention, as a rise in popularity has created a demand for it as a crop of its own! On the other hand, there may be times when a gardener or farmer needs to pull a crop of garlic prematurely, due to various unplanned circumstances.
I personally haven’t seen green garlic sold at large chain grocery stories… Have you? Aside from growing your own, your best bet to nab some would likely be at the farmer’s market in the springtime, or possibly from a small local grocery store.
For us, our garlic had to be harvested early because disease set in. We have ended up with crops of green garlic twice now, due to a heavy infection of garlic rust that came along after unusually wet and humid winters here. Garlic rust is a fungal disease that only affects the allium family (garlic, onions, leeks, and shallots). It is virtually impossible to treat organically once it appears. Despite our best crop rotation efforts, it hit again this spring.
We let our garlic grow as long as we could, but it reached a point that was better for us to pull it out of there (including the spreading rust spores) than to prolong the inevitable – a serious decline in the crop. While we are pretty bummed to not have our usual garlic for long term dry-storage, it’s not the end of the world – because green garlic is awesome too! We have plenty of use for it.
How to prepare green garlic for use
The preparation that green garlic requires depends on just how old it is when harvested, and how you’re going to use it. But know this – pretty much the whole dang “plant” is edible and can be put to good use! Because there are no papery parts, and no need to peel individual cloves, working with green garlic can be much quicker and easier than mature garlic.
For smaller, tender pieces, all you need to do is wash and cut it, as you would a green onion. If they’re still attached, cut away the roots and butt end. If you are dealing with larger, slightly more mature green garlic, there is a possibility that some of the green stalk portion and outer bulb “skin” has grown a little tough. Again, what you intend to use it for will dictate if you need to remove the tougher portion or not. For example, if you’re going to preserve it by making garlic powder, then who cares how tough it is? It is all going to get dried and ground to smithereens anyways! That is the beauty of making seasoning powders.
Our green garlic is usually harvested rather large, so we do peel away a couple layers of the firm outermost leaves and skin – like you would when preparing to cut an onion. See the photos below. Unfortunately, we had to discard the top leafy green portions of our green garlic because it was infected with garlic rust, but that part can usually be used as well!
Now, let’s talk about how to use it!
7 WAYS TO USE GREEN GARLIC
The bulb and tender stalks of green garlic can be used in the place of typical garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, or shallots in any recipe! This includes enjoying them sautéed with other vegetables, added to soups, fresh on top of frittata (or baked inside), in pesto, or minced and added to homemade salad dressing!
To make use of the upper leaf portion or any tougher stalks, consider saving them in the freezer with other veggie scraps to later make homemade vegetable stock. Also, you could add those parts whole to infuse flavor into soup, rice, or beans while cooking, and then remove them before serving – much like how you would use bay leaves.
Roasted green garlic is just as delicious as mature roasted garlic. If you haven’t yet experienced either, you’re missing out! Especially fresh. Roasted green garlic can be spread on crusty bread (ahem, homemade sourdough…) on its own or with your cheese of choice. It is also a welcome addition added to hummus, sauces, curry lentils, soups, and more!
To roast green garlic:
Most sources suggest to wrap garlic in tin foil, and roast it in the oven until it is soft. This works well, and is a totally valid option! However, we usually have a large amount to roast and try to avoid using much foil, so we roast ours a little differently.
After peeling away the tougher outer layers, spread the garlic in a large glass baking pan. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat it, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. On 400F, roast the green garlic in the oven until it is golden brown and soft.
The time will vary depending on the age and thickness of the green garlic you’re working with. For our larger, more mature bulbs, we found that roasting them for 20 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered worked well. Flip the pieces over once during baking to evenly roast both sides.
Green Garlic Powder
The best way I can suggest to preserve green garlic is to dehydrate it, and make your own garlic powder! This is our favorite garlic preservation method, by far. I mean… who doesn’t love garlic powder?!? It is a delicious addition to SO many types of meals. You could also mix your finished homemade garlic powder with other spices, like salt or pepper, to create your own seasoning blend. When done right, garlic powder can stay fresh for well over a year – and a little goes a long way!
To see instructions on how to make garlic powder, with either mature or green garlic, check out this post! Here are the cliff notes: thinly slice the garlic, and dry it completely in a food dehydrator. Next, grind into a fine powder using a Vitamix, coffee grinder, food processor, or similar. Store in an air-tight container.
In addition to making powder, we also like to preserve garlic in the freezer. This way, you can pull out pieces as needed over time, adding it to a variety of dishes – much like you would fresh.
Freezing green garlic can be as simple as cutting it into chunks, leaving it raw, and tossing it into the freezer in a container. For an extra burst of amazing flavor, we often times roast it prior to freezing! Following the same instructions in the “roasted” section above, roast the garlic, then allow it to cool on the pan.
A tip for freezing food:
After it has cooled, place the pieces of roasted garlic on a cookie sheet (or two), not touching one another. Put the cookie sheet into the freezer. Allow the garlic chunks to completely freeze, which should take a couple of hours.
Now the chunks can be stored in a container together. We like using these reusable USA-made, BPA-free food storage containers for our frozen goodies! They come in a variety of sizes too. The process of individually “pan freezing” food first prevents the pieces from sticking together and forming one huge frozen clump when they’re later combined. We use this method regularly when freezing our harvests, for a wide variety of foods! It makes it extremely helpful and easy to later pull out just a couple chunks from the container.
Another way to preserve a larger harvest or supply of green garlic is to pickle it. Bloody Mary fans and garlic-enthusiasts will love this option! If it is young and tender enough, pickled green garlic could be munched on whole, if that’s your style and taste. They could also be further cut up later and incorporated into other meals. Some mouthwatering options for using pickled garlic are in salad dressing, stuffed in olives, served with cheese and crackers, mixed with sautéed vegetables, or in hummus.
To pickle green garlic, cut and peel away any tough upper and outer portions, revealing the most tender middle parts. Pack into a jar with a vinegar-based brine and seasonings of choice. See our favorite pickling brine recipe here. It is used for banana peppers in this example, but could easily be applied to a variety of veggies – including cucumbers and garlic! We most often make quick-and-easy refrigerator pickles, rather than messing with hot bath canning.
If you are familiar with this blog, you likely already know that we usually prefer to ferment things over vinegar-pickle! The health benefits of fermented foods is just too real to deny. And yes, we have fermented green garlic in the past! But to be honest, it wasn’t my absolute favorite. I think because we didn’t do a great job about getting creative and using it in as many ways as we should have. We just tried to munch on it whole. Ha! Then I sort of forgot about it in the back of the fridge for a year. Oops…
However, fermented green garlic is a very popular and commonly-recommended way to preserve it. Just because we didn’t use ours to its full potential doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a go, if you’re interested! To ferment green garlic, follow the same process and recipe that we show here for fermented dilly radishes. Simply replace the radishes for garlic, and skip the dill – unless you want them dilly. Another option is to make honey fermented garlic.
Preserved in Oil
I am not even going to attempt to give instructions for how to do this. It isn’t something we do here at home, because we favor the other aforementioned ways. Plus, this can be risky! Garlic can carry botulism, which is naturally present in soil. It can grow to dangerous levels in the absence of oxygen – such as in an oil solution. If you want to go down this road, check out this resource from University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources to learn how to safely do it.
And those are the top 7 ways to use green garlic!
In summary, green garlic is pretty awesome. I am not necessarily suggesting you go and pull out your whole crop of garlic early, just so you can enjoy green garlic… But maybe try it with a few bulbs! The best thing is that like in our situation, if you’re struggling with disease or other issues, you aren’t “losing” your whole crop if it does have to be harvested early for some reason!
What do you think? Have you tried green garlic before? If not, are you eager to now? Did I forget any tasty ways that you like to use it? Let me know in the comments!
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