Relish the green stalks

Amrita Prasad
Thursday, 17 January 2019

Green garlic lends a more delicate garlic flavour to dishes. Chefs tell us why we must indulge in it, how to use it in meals and how to store it the right way

Celebrity chef Vicky Ratnani’s recent post on Instagram reads: “You can make your spicy fermented green garlic by massaging the green garlic with some sea salt. I added some Mathania chillies from Rajasthan to it. Pushed it down in my fermentation jar and topped it with a very light brine of aged ginger flavoured soy sauce (circa 2012) and water to top it up. Stashed it away. See you in a week my new Hot & Funky Green Garlic!”
 
His post piqued a lot of interest and drew great attention to the humble green garlic (lasnachi paat in Marathi), a produce in winter and spring time. Soon a couple of more home chefs and bloggers posted recipes that included green garlic, their love for the ingredient and some even grammed themselves while buying it from the vegetable vendor.   
 
Photographer and traveller Sangeeta Khanna posted: “Lehsun-sagga. A pickle made of green garlic and dill leaves along with fresh ginger, the flavours will keep coming back to you every year as these produce appear in the markets.” And her post on Instagram was loved by all. 

Winter is the time to relish seasonal produce like sarson ka saag (mustard greens), chenopodium (goosefoot), green peas, carrots and green garlic. Only available for a few weeks in the cold months, green garlic is young garlic with tender leaves that is harvested early in the season before the bulb is fully formed. Green garlic has its own smell and flavour that enhances the taste of any dish. Not to forget, it is loaded with health benefits. 

A KITCHEN ESSENTIAL 
Hemant Biradar, executive sous chef, Conrad Pune, Mangaldas Road, says that it is one of the favourite ingredients this season. Telling us further about the goodness of green garlic, he says, “Green garlic adds a subtle fresh garlicky flavour to dishes and is widely used in the preparation of egg dishes and garnishes in Western cuisine. In Indian cuisine, it is often used to prepare chutneys or used as a tempering in non-complicated simple dishes like daal.” 

So what importance does it hold in Indian and Western kitchens? Rajesh Dubey, head chef, Gong, Speciality Restaurants Ltd, says that garlic of any kind is popular for its immune boosting qualities. “It one of the most loved ingredients in kitchens — be it in India or Italy. This humble plant can be used in all its forms including stock. It can also be paired with different kinds of meat and vegetables, and only contributes towards enhancing the taste of your dish,” he says. 
 
For those who love Indian Chinese will be familiar with the taste of green garlic. Lekhraj Motikharke, head chef, Ales, Brews and Ciders Brewing Company, Kalyani Nagar, says that green garlic is widely used in the Indianised version of Chinese cuisine in India. “It is used for Lamb Chops, Grilled Tofu, Paneer Chilli and other Indo-Chinese recipes. Also, it is extensively used in the western parts of India, for example, Gujarati dishes like Undhiyu. Sindhis make their favourite Doda (flour paratha) with chopped green garlic. In Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, a stew made with sesame, is seasoned with green garlic which is also called spring garlic. They also make a dry chutney using salt, green garlic, and green chillies,” he informs.  

Enhances FLAVOUR  
Green garlic can be used raw or cooked. Experts say that when used raw, green garlic’s flavour is less strong and slightly more bitter than a clove of garlic, however, when cooked, the flavour softens and becomes a little sweeter.

Biradar says that green garlic is less pungent and adds delicate freshness to the dishes and garlic flowers can be used as garnish. “When in season use/ substitute green garlic instead of regular garlic for almost all the dishes. One can make Green Garlic Chutney or Green Garlic (also known as chives) Omelette. Green garlic pairs very well with eggs,” he suggests.  

Dubey, who agrees with Biradar, says that adding garlic to any dish enhances the flavour. “It takes the taste of your dish one notch higher. It can be used as a garnish or as a tempering or tadka. Garlic is one of those ingredients that can be used in any form in any dish.”  
 

USING IT RIGHT 
When asked what are the various ways in which green garlic can be consumed and what are some of the dishes that can be prepared using it, Dubey says that integrating green garlic into meals is incredibly easy. You can simply slice it thinly and use it as you would a green scallion.
 
“You can use both the white bulb and the tender portion of the green stalk. Stir it into a homemade salad dressing or salsa sauce or use it as a garnish for soups. You can sauté it as you would normal garlic for a stir-fry or for a vegetable dish. You can even stuff a whole chicken with green garlic and lemons, then roast it. It can be used in pizza toppings, but ensure that you sprinkle it around the pizza before you add the cheese, so that it doesn’t burn in the oven,” says Dubey.
  
Motikharke and  Biradar both agree that green garlic can be typically used wherever garlic is used. “It can be swapped for a more richer, subtle flavour. Green Garlic and Chilly Chutney tastes amazing. You can mince it raw and add as a garnish for salads, soups and stir fries. You can also add to pesto sauce or flavoured mayonnaise to this. We make a signature Green Garlic Chutney with procured fresh green garlic. Firstly, chop two or three bunches of green garlic, some chillies, 2 tablespoons of oil and mix all of them together. Stir fry them until they turn bright green. Add generous amounts of salt, and a dash of lime. Put it in a jar or a bottle and consume it with rice or roti,” he suggests.
  
But is there a dish or an ingredient in which green garlic shouldn’t be mixed? “When garlic is minced in its raw form and comes into contact with acid (lemon juice, vinegar), the acid begins to break down the garlic, changing its composition,” says Motikharke that it could be avoided in curries. It adds texture and body to Indian curries but somehow we have good replacements of green garlic pods, and leaves for our Indian cuisine,” he adds. 
 
HEALTHY LEAVES  
Just like garlic, green garlic too, is known to posses many medicinal properties. Biradar believes that it prevents infections such as common cold and cough because of its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.

For Dubey, it is notable for its immune-boosting qualities like allicin — the sulphur compound found in garlic responsible for its pungent smell and taste — a natural antibiotic and can help the body block infections. “If you suffer from anaemia or low iron levels, garlic also helps to keep iron levels high. Most people know that vitamin C helps increase iron metabolism, but garlic contains the protein ferroportin that carries stored iron from inside a cell to outside of the cell, assisting the body as needed,” he quips. 

He further adds that due to its richness in polysulfides, garlic also helps protect against heart disease. “Garlic is also rich in manganese, a mineral linked to HDL or good cholesterol. When manganese levels are high, HDL is high, and vice versa,” he says.  
 
SELECTING AND STORING 
Not everyone knows the art of selecting the leaves and storing it. Biradar says, “Look for green garlic with fresh green tops. Avoid dried ends or soggy leaves. Browning or dirty outer leaves can be stripped off, just like green onions.”
 
Motikharke says that green garlic looks extremely similar to green onions so differentiating it in the market could be tricky. The best way is to take a whiff and smell it closely. “It should have a strong garlic-like smell. The leaves and the bottom greens should be flat and ideally dark green. Pungent smelling leaves and broken pods must be avoided. Garlic chives will easily stay in the refrigerator for a week and can be wrapped in a damp towel or paper and stored,”  he suggests.
  
Dubey says that fresh garlic bulbs can be found at your local grocery store or you could grow it in your kitchen garden. “No matter where your garlic comes from, you can make your garlic last longer by storing it correctly. The following guide will help you keep your garlic stay fresh long:

  • Purchase or harvest garlic that is fresh and firm, not tender.    
  • Dry homegrown garlic bulbs before storing.
  • Store garlic at room temperature.
  • Keep garlic in a location with good air circulation. 
  • Store fresh garlic bulbs in a dark, dry spot.
  • Use garlic quickly once you have broken the bulb. 

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