When a local farmer offered Matt Bolus a crop of green garlic a few years ago, the executive chef at the 404 Kitchen in Nashville did what any passionate Southern cook would do: He gratefully accepted a few pounds and holed up in the kitchen to experiment. “I immediately realized how remarkable this ingredient is,” he says. “I was quickly trying to find a place for green garlic in everything.” Possessing a mild sweetness, green garlic is simply a young, unsegmented garlic bulb that still has edible greens shooting out of the top. “It’s tender and lightly crisp with a delicate flavor that you almost lose if you don’t think about what it is you’re eating,” Bolus says. “It lacks the sometimes off-putting heat of mature garlic.” In the South, you’ll typically find green garlic at farmers’ markets in February and March. Look for plump bulbs that haven’t begun to dry out or separate, with vibrant greens. To further ensure freshness, take a whiff; a faint garlic aroma should emerge toward the back of your nose. Then grab a couple of bunches and store them in the produce drawer, wrapped in damp paper towels. The flavor—akin to that of scallions and leeks—makes an excellent complement to slow-cooked stews and soups. Or just keep it simple by rolling chopped bulbs and greens into butter or adding them to homemade salad dressings, stir-fries, or eggs. Bolus especially loves to pair green garlic with citrus, as in the lemon-spiked recipes he offers here. “In the transitional time between winter and spring,” he says, “I want to start eating brighter food, dishes that are still wholesome but have a clean, fresh feel.”
Green Garlic Three Ways
Make a Go-To Salsa
“Salsa verde is a staple in my house. You can use it for a meat marinade, as a seasoning for beans and rice, or as a dip for each bite of steak. The uses are limitless.”
In a food processor, pulse 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, 6 anchovy fillets, 3 bulbs green garlic (bulbs and stems, chopped), 1 chopped shallot, zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, and ¼ cup mint until thoroughly combined. (For a chunkier salsa, you can instead use a mortar and pestle.) Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and lemon juice if necessary.
Simmer a Risotto
“Using green garlic and Meyer lemon balances the weight of this dish.”
Heat 6 cups chicken stock over medium. In another large pot, heat ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, and sweat 2 diced bulbs green garlic, 1 diced shallot, a pinch of salt, and ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes until tender. Add 1½ cups arborio rice, stir to coat, and toast 2 minutes. Add ½ cup white wine and stir until absorbed. Add chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until all liquid is absorbed before adding more. When rice is tender, remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in thinly sliced garlic greens and zest of 1 Meyer lemon. Add lemon juice, if desired.
Whip Up a Soup
“Green garlic soup represents the birth of a new season.”
In a large pot, heat 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil over medium. Add 6 thyme sprigs, 10 toasted coriander seeds, the peel of 1 lemon, the sliced whites of 1 leek, a thinly sliced Vidalia onion, and 8 to 10 heads thinly sliced green garlic (including greens). Heat 5 to 10 minutes, until ingredients are tender but not brown. Increase heat to medium-high and add ½ cup white wine. Simmer 5 minutes, then add 1 quart heavy cream and bring to a boil. Remove soup from heat and, once it cools, process it in a blender until smooth. Strain liquid and season with salt and lemon juice.