Green garlic also suits pasta, particularly whole wheat spaghetti, the nutty flavor of which highlights the mellow garlic. Instead of mincing the garlic, sauté the stalks whole so they intertwine with the pasta when tossed with it in a bowl. Top colorful plates of pasta and green garlic with eggs fried in the garlic-laced oil — and an abundant amount of coarse black pepper and sea salt — and you have a rustic dish that takes only about 15 minutes to make.
Like the early weeks of spring, green garlic is a fleeting pleasure. Although farmers can grow garlic year-round, it's usually planted in the fall and harvested in late spring, which means that green garlic will appear for a month or two at most in early spring.
Peter Schaner of Schaner Family Farm plants California white garlic and Peruvian pink garlic and pulls the young garlic plants from the fields as early as January and as late as June, however. Crates of young garlic, emerald green and with dirt still clinging to them, were stacked near his market stall on a recent morning in Santa Monica. Schaner doesn't plant specifically for the green garlic that's drawing a small crowd of chefs to the back of his truck. "It's all the same. I just pick it earlier," he says.
A few stalls down, Barbara Spencer of Windrose Farm brings green garlic from her Paso Robles fields, where she plants a crop expressly to harvest it early. Spencer says they plant small whole bulbs, using up the little bulbs that are too small to sell. Because of the colder climate where she and her husband, Bill, farm, they begin their harvest later than the Schaners do. "Let's call it March, maybe April," Spencer says, with the circumspect view of a farmer.
Unlike mature garlic, which requires caution and even avoidance (think full sun and the sign of the cross), green garlic can be used with cheerful abandon. Load your market basket with the stuff, fill your soup pot, decorate the threshold of your kitchen. Green as grass, garlic is an invitation to dinner.