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Garlic Through the Seasons
This post was originally published in February 2021, but I’ve been moving it up in the blog as we move through the seasons of the year.
Over the winter, around early December, I think, I purchased a whole bag of whole heads of garlic that were on the discount cart at my local produce stand. I had the idea I should roast them all, since I love roasted garlic, but I was so absorbed in redesigning six websites that I just didn’t get to it.
At the time I also had the thought that it was winter and that is the best time of year—no, the natural time of year—to eat roasted garlic. When it is at the very end of its cycle of life.
But I missed it. Now, these heads of garlic have gone on to reproduce! Instead of tight heads that I can barely pull apart, the sprouted heads are breaking apart on their own, each clove being released to start growing more cloves to make an independent head of it’s own. I’m just going to let these all sprout and plant them in my garden. I love watching them reaching out to reproduce (just in time for Valentine’s Day).
In our industrial supermarkets, we can purchase whole heads of garlic throughout the year. That’s how I thought of garlic all my life. It’s always available in the same form, month after month. But now that I have the opportunity to see it in the farmer’s market month after month, I see it has a lifecycle of its own, and each one is delicious.
You won’t see what I am about to tell you in the industrial supermarket, but you will find it in your farmer’s market if your local farmer’s grow garlic.
I was hoping to just be able to look up “garlic through the year” and get a nice write-up with pictures of all the edible phases of garlic, but I couldn’t find one.
So stay tuned and I will add them to this post this year as they happen.
Different Types Of Garlic Produce Different Plants
I didn’t know this until this year, but there are two types of garlic: hardneck and softneck.
The “neck” is the stalk that grows upward from the garlic bulb. Hardnecks have a stalk that grows from the center of the bulb and becomes rigid at maturity. This is the stem of the garlic flower. Softnecks have no stalk, only leaves. Softneck leaves remain soft and flexible at maturity.
The Cycle of Life for Garlic Through the Four Seasons
1. green garlic (from softneck garlic)
2. garlic scapes (from hardneck garlic)
3. fresh garlic heads
4. matured garlic heads
Each have their own flavor and uses.
Green Garlic (Garlic Scallions)
The first time I ate green garlic, I followed the advice of a farmer selling it on how to prepare it and it was so strong I never wanted to eat it again! So I didn’t buy it last year, but this year, now that I understand it, and I love it.
Green garlic is the young version of the plants that will eventually produce the heads of garlic that you see in the grocery store. It is usually available at farmers’ markets starting in March in warmer climates and into July in cooler areas. It looks like a green onion, but the green end has flatter leaves.
It can be used like a green onion raw in salads, dressings, or sauces, and can also be pickled, roasted, grilled, braised, or added to other dishes in place of garlic.
Simply trim off the root ends and any tough part of the green leaves.
But here’s the important part. Some green garlic can be very strong and other green garlic can be very mild. So please taste a very tiny bit first before you use a lot of it.
Last weekend at the farmer’s market we there was lots of green garlic here in California. It’s the season now.