It might be January, and it might not be time to think about spring yet, but it's been a warm year and the greenery is already out at the farmers' market, up to two months in advance of its normal appearance.
Green garlic is the entire garlic plant while it is still young, before
the cloves have a chance to form. It looks like scallions, but with a
much more floral garlic taste which can actually be stronger when raw
than its mature cousin; cooking the garlic tempers the bite to a
pleasing undertone. Look for garlic with a perky top and fresh-looking roots. If the bulb is purple, don't worry; this sometimes happens. Make sure you don't leave the garlic in the hot car; the leaves will wilt.
More and more growers are coming to the market with mustard greens;
these curly, leafy greens are not only delicious, they're amazingly
good for you (folic acid, anyone?). While most Asian vendors will have
large bundles of the greens, the best mustard greens I've ever had came
from Sweredoski Farms, down at the far end of the Irvine market. They
grow an amazing array of unusual greenery on small urban plots in Bell
Gardens, which is not exactly a place one thinks of when thinking of
farmland. Sweredoski's mustard greens are a third the thickness of
other vendors', with leaves still furled, and the taste is so mild you
could shred them and eat them raw as slaw. Look for fresh, crisp leaves with clean cuts on the bottoms.
What do you do with
these things? Stir-fry the mustard greens with a tiny bit of oil, some
salt and some (regular) garlic, or put them in with some pasta and
roasted chicken. Greeks would be lost without their plates of horta,
wild mustard greens cooked simply, and Sicilians would be missing a
very healthy part of their diet if they couldn't make mustard greens
braised with chickpeas.
Green garlic is delicious in soups (try
it with fresh peas), marinated in vinaigrette as a simple side salad,
mixed with ricotta and a little bit of nutmeg as a filling for your
favorite stuffed pasta, or substituted for the regular garlic in a
Mama said to eat your greens; now you've got no reason not to.