Other than herbs and alfalfa tips for my chickens, green garlic is always the first thing that I harvest from the garden. In my climate, which is more or less USDA zone seven, I plant in October and nearly always harvest green garlic the first week of March. The part of the garlic patch that I plan to harvest green is planted very closely, about 2 inches apart each way, which is plenty of room for this purpose. Every year I plant more. It is really good stuff. For a long time I thought that it might not really be worth the trouble, because I was harvesting and eating only the white stem and incipient bulb and composting the greens. Duh. The greens are the best part, as well as being full of allacin and other antioxidants, and any part that is bright green rather than yellow or brown can be used. You can grow a useful amount in a few square feet if your soil is rich, and it is harvested and out of the way in time to plant something else for the summer.
In the picture above you see a stalk of green elephant garlic, which is really a leek relative rather than a true garlic. It is typically a foot or more tall and an inch or so in diameter at the green stage. It has a slightly different flavor from true green garlic but is equally delicious. I once bought green garlic at a farmer’s market that was bitter, but I have never tasted any other that was bitter. It may have had to do with growing conditions or variety. I have heard of people chopping garlic leaves into salads as a seasoning, but personally I don’t care for the taste raw and only use them cooked.
With all green garlic, I trim the roots and leaf tips and wash, then line them up and cut them in cross-section into slices about a quarter inch thick. I sauté in either butter or olive oil, whichever will suit the rest of the meal, slowly until the greens are tender. A little salt is thrown in along the way. They become soft and sweet and delicious, and I enjoy eating them as a vegetable on their own. They also go very nicely into all kinds of other vegetable dishes. If you are a carb eater, they would be delicious with fresh handmade egg pasta, butter, and a discreet amount of Parmesan, or tossed with new potatoes and butter. I love them in mixtures of cooked greens, too, and they are a lovely complement for fried eggs. I plan to make a cream of green garlic soup at some point this spring. A few stalks sautéed in your smallest skillet while you are cooking other things also make a very nice cook’s treat to eat standing in the kitchen, as a sort of tapa for one. After all, the laborer is worthy of her hire.
Like all the rest of us, green garlic will lose its youthful bloom sooner rather than later. When the bulb is swelling and the leaf tips are turning progressively more yellow, it is past the point of being worthwhile to eat green. In its brief season I harvest 10 or 12 stalks whenever I have some free time, clean and sauté them, and have them waiting in the refrigerator. If I haven’t use them within a day or two, I vacuum seal them into neat little packets and keep them in the freezer to go in summer dishes.