Buy Local: Young Garlic

Garlic is one of nature’s most wondrous miracles. I have never had a dish that I deemed “too garlicky”—I like it spicy (raw), sweet (roasted; I go through whole heads at a time) and anywhere in between. When most Americans picture garlic, they see the mature bulbs—taut little bundles of awesome, each individual clove gift-wrapped in its translucent shell—but spring offers the chance to enjoy baby garlic, toddler garlic and wily teen garlic.

These young garlics are varied and go by many names: garlic scallions (due to their resemblance to green onions), green garlic, young garlic and garlic scapes (this is actually something a bit different—the curly green part that grows above ground, chopped off to discourage flower production).
The season for this stuff is tragically short, and the flavor is something slightly sweeter than the dried bulbs we’re used to. It’s also easier to prepare—no cumbersome peeling to do. Slice the young garlic, sautee it in a skillet with olive oil, and use it as a topping for grilled meat or vegetables. It’s also excellent in Asian stir-fries, adding color along with garlicky twang.

The scapes, meanwhile, can be pureed into a surprising and verdant pesto—just blanch and toss in the food processor with olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice (parmesan and pine nuts are optional). Serve it on pasta, tossed with small balls of fresh mozzarella as a side dish or smeared onto crunchy bread as a quick appetizer.