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Rows of peeled green garlic shown from above
All Things Garden,  Preserve Your Harvest

Green Garlic: What Is It? Plus 7 Ways to Use or Preserve It

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.


Some green garlic may be slender and tender. Some may be bulbous, with tough stalks. To preserve what we couldn’t use fresh, we decided to dehydrate the tougher stalks and the smaller tender bulbs, and freeze the larger bulbs.


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.


Garlic Rust

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.


Four images of green garlic infected with red spots of garlic rust on the greens. The bulbs are smaller than normal, and the greens are very yellow and red. An image of the cut middle bulb shows small cloves were starting to form, but not individually wrapped ones like mature garlic.
Our garlic-rust infected crop this year. As you can see, the bulbs got fairly mature and started to form individual cloves, but not far enough along for long-term storage. We needed to get that rust out of the garden! The leaves were discarded in the city green waste bin, not our compost pile!


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!


Four images showing a hand cutting and peeling long stalks of green garlic, removing dirty and tough outer layers until the bright tender green and white inside is revealed.


Now, let’s talk about how to use it!


7 WAYS TO USE GREEN GARLIC

Fresh

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

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.



Two images of glass baking pan full of heads of green garlic, cut in half. The first is raw, white, and the second image is after being roasted in the oven, now golden brown.
Before and after roasting. As you can see in the “before” image, the hardneck garlic was so far along that it had started getting its tough middle stem, which needed to be removed.


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.


Two jars labelled "garlic 2019", full of garlic powder.
Our 2019 homegrown garlic powder supply. This will last us until next season!


Freeze

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 about an hour.

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.


Three images showing how to freeze roasted garlic. The first shows roasted garlic on a cookie sheet, spread out and not touching. The other two show it the brown cloves and heads inside plastic pint containers.
By freezing them on a cookie sheet on their own first, these hunks of garlic goodness won’t stick and freeze together in their containers.


Pickle

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 garlic! We most often make quick-and-easy refrigerator pickles, rather than messing with hot bath canning.


Ferment

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.


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!


A hand holding a bunch of peeled green garlic stalks and bulbs, with more laying out in the background. The white heads are smaller than typical garlic, but more round than green onions.



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!


I hope you found this article helpful and inspiring! Please spread the love by pinning or passing it on.



Deannacat's Signature - keep on growing

18 Comments

  • Marin Scotty

    Thank you for writing such a great description of how to use green garlic. Fortunately here in Marin County at the local farmers markets twice a week we have great produce. I got a box recently with green garlic and haven’t worked with that much but now I’m starting to play around with it. Using it in my Korean barbecue recipe throwing some of the top greens into the marinade with the meat. Will roast some on the side after marinating The more tender portions. Looking forward to trying it later on today! Trying to learn some new things while under lock down from coronavirus.

  • Lara

    I’ve wrestled garlic rust in the past and was disappointed with the loss of the crop. I have never heard of green garlic until now — so, thank you! 🙂 You’ve given me an option if I ever have the rust issue pop up again in the future!

  • Tracy Douthit

    I’m going to try freezing mine and dehydrating for garlic power. Could you plant the unused (whole cloves) frozen garlic in next years garden? Would that work?

    • DeannaCat

      No, you can’t plant something once it has been frozen – It will likely turn to mush a bit once it is defrosted. Also, green garlic isn’t mature enough to be used as seed for future garlic crop. It has to be fully developed with a papery outer clove, dried, and then planted later. I hope that helps!

  • Nicolle

    Is it bad if my garlic stalks have started to lean? We’ve been getting quite a bit of rain in zone 7 and they’re leaning. I just had to dig one up because the stalk broke off while I was weeding. Only 4 or 5 cloves had just started to form.

    • DeannaCat

      Nah, it’s not a huge deal. If you want, you can top off with a very thin layer of fluffy compost and lightly pack it around the bulbs to stand them more upright. Don’t bury the stalks though! Especially if you’ve had a lot of rain… Don’t want those babies to rot.

      • Lilia Beltran

        Bought garlic to start but time got away from me and they are still in a paper bag. Hoping they survive the summer to plant in the fall. These roasted green garlic look divine!

  • Alicia

    Hi Deanna!

    Thank you for this post, and thank you for explaining the importance of commenting on the blog. I didn’t realize our comments were directly supportive!

    I can tell I will be referring back to this post (and others, of course) often. We love garlic here. I bought 5oz of powdered garlic at the market recently and the cashier commented that “I must really love garlic”. Well I do, and 5oz didn’t seem like that much…

    I am growing onions currently with plans to grow garlic starting in the fall. The grass right outside my garden bed has a serious rust-looking infestation. I’ve pulled some of it out and kept a close eye on the onions, but it doesn’t seem to be spreading. I assume there are other, non-allium specific rusts? Do you know for sure?

    One more question: we have pet donkeys that would love to eat my vegetables. Any idea if it’s a bad idea to feed them plants infested with fungal diseases like rust or powdery mildew? Would the fungi survive the digestion process, do you think?

    Thanks for all your generous know-how!

    • DeannaCat

      Hey Alicia! So, I believe there are many types of “rust” or reddish types of fungus, but garlic rust is specific to the allium family only. I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think the stuff on your grass will impact your onions and garlic. Especially if they aren’t touching. For the donkeys (it is ridiculously cute that you have these, by the way!) I really don’t know much about them… But with our chickens for example, we do avoid feeding them diseased plants. Since they have a “crop” that can get fungal disease and infections, we are extra cautious. My gut instinct says if it has just a tiny bit, it probably isn’t a big deal, but I wouldn’t feed any animal anything super diseased. I hope that helps!

  • Haley

    Amazing info!!! Thank you for that extra push on your last insta post to go check out your blog and comment on what we read. Because of that I choose to subscribe to your news letter and look forward to reciving the garden plan kit! Unfortunately my garden is mostly planted this year but I will most likely start using it with my fall crops!!! Love your images and your amazing write ups!!!

    • DeannaCat

      Well thank you for being here! I truly appreciate it. Where are you located? It sounds like you may be a lucky on like us, that can start fall crops and grow through the winter?

  • Amy

    HI! This was SO helpful! Thank you!!! Do you find that garlic (green, roasted or otherwise) loses some of it’s flavor after it has been frozen? I made a roasted garlic butter last year and after it was frozen, the garlic flavor had almost disappeared while all other herbs in the butter were unchanged. I am not sure if it was something with the butter, the garlic, or user error :).

    • DeannaCat

      Hi Amy! Interesting observation! That isn’t something we have come across specifically, though over time various flavors can get a stale in the freezer – but usually many many months or a year later. Was it a strong garlic flavor to begin with? If you were using green garlic, it is sometimes less overtly “garlicky” than mature garlic to start. Anywho, I’m not sure that is helpful or not – but I am glad you liked the article!

    • DeannaCat

      Yes. We typically buy new seed garlic each year anyways, just because we like to try new varieties… and use all the garlic we grew 🙂

      • Zipporah Scicchitano

        Thank you! This was so informative for me. I had no idea garlic normally grows for that long, nor that you can eat it green. We love garlic over here so I’m going to plant some this year. And watch for rust. I’m guessing if I plant it in a sunnier and dryer area of our yard we can maybe escape that.

        • DeannaCat

          You’ll probably be just fine. Garlic rust isn’t alllll that common – but we get a lot of powdery mildew here too, so I am not surprised rust likes it here too. You may be able to start some asap and harvest them green, but otherwise I suggest ordering your garlic seed this summer and planting it in the fall at the “standard” time to do so. Stay tuned for the more detailed garlic growing post!

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