What is this? Spring (or Green) Garlic
Green Garlic (also known as Young Garlic or Spring Garlic, which is the term I use) is the result of farmers thinning their crop. Seeds are sown in abundance to ensure enough with germinate, but typically you end up with plants that root too close together and you need to thin them out to allow the best ones to grow. It might sound inefficient but it has been the way of farming since the dawn of time. No matter, the thinned crop is usually a delicate and delicious version of the mature plant. In other words, delicious.
Green garlic is popular in Southeast Asian cookery, where it is abundant, but in the states it has mostly been used by farmers themselves until only recently. These days you can find it in farmers markets, farm shares and specialty grocery stores. It is sold at multiple stages in the maturation process - early ones are just straight stalks and look like scallions, later ones have a small bulb, like spring onions, and even later ones more resemble matured garlic but still have their stems and are not dried (see slideshow above). They generally appear on the market starting in mid-march.
How to Store Spring Garlic:
Wrap in a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Stored this way spring garlic can keep up to a week.
What do you do with it?
You can do anything with green garlic that you do with regular garlic, but without the harsh bite the garlic flavor really shines. No need to toast this one! That said, green garlic can be tricky to work with because it mellows so quickly. Think of the green tops as a herb - very flavorful when fresh or added just at the end of a dish, but looses it's flavor when cooked too long. I find it also mellows in a dish after a few days in the refrigerator. I recommend making your green garlic recipes right before you serve them. Here are some ideas from Farm Share Plate:
Spring Garlic Hummus
Spring Garlic and Lemon Compound Butter
Spring Garlic Toast
Roasted Tomato and Spring Garlic Fusilli
There are also lots of interesting spring garlic recipes from other sites:
Food52 has a recipe called The Green Madam, based on a breakfast sandwich at a local Boston shop
Fine Cooking as a delicious looking Spaghetti with Green Garlic and Olive Oil recipe
New York Times has 13 Delicious Uses for Green Garlic
SaltPepperSkillet has what sounds like a lovely Green Garlic Risotto recipe
Love and Olive Oil's Green Garlic Soup Redux looks spot on