Greens: Early Spring Horta


For gardeners, early spring is a time of great anticipation. This is the season when the growing season to come glows with perfection in your mind, completely removed from hard weather, pests, and general exhaustion. But it is also the time of the very first harvest, if you grow some perennial plants. At about the time that the crocuses bloom, the perennial green onions are forming a thick forest about 8 inches high. The garlic in my semi-permaculture garlic patch is about the same height and is tender and sweet. It’s time to start eating from my home ground.

I have written roughly a million times about the Greek mixture called horta, a mass of assorted greens cooked and seasoned together. This time of year the perennial greens are sprouting but are too small to bother picking, but a horta based on alliums is a very delicious thing. When I make horta  with summer greens later in the season it is more elaborately flavored, but these first hortas  are simple and sweet.

Gather a large bunch of green garlic and green onions. I use about half each, but use what you have.

Chop them in cross sections of about 1/4 inch.  Heat a skillet over a medium flame with about a quarter cup of good olive oil. Put the white half of the chopped greens in the skillet, add a generous pinch of salt, and sauté for a couple of minutes. Naturally the division into white parts and green parts is going to be very inexact, and this doesn’t matter. Just try to get most of the white end of your cut greens into the skillet. After a couple of minutes, add the green parts and another bit of salt. You can add a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves at this point if you like, and I usually do. Now turn the heat down and sauté over low heat for about 15 minutes. Alliums contain a fair amount of sugar and sugar can easily burn, so do not walk away and leave them to tend themselves. After 15 minutes, taste. If they are soft and chewable and tasty, they are done. Otherwise, keep sautéing for another few minutes. Taste, add salt as needed, and you’re done. It really was that easy.

For a light meal or substantial snack, I like eating them as is with some crumbled feta on top.
For a more substantial meal, a fried egg on top is delicious.

If you want to know a little more about polyphenolic compounds of interest in green garlic and green onions, you can read a past blog post here that has a few references. However, I have to point out that I am extremely dubious about taking any one polyphenol too seriously, especially when it comes to medical claims. In my opinion you are not medicating yourself, you are eating vegetables, and they are very delicious.

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