Garlic in May

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This was the year that I discovered “young” garlic. I had never tried it and didn’t know that, like a leek, you can use all of the white base of the plant, as well as the tender, lighter-green part of the stalk. And I do mean all of the white part, newly forming garlic head included. The papery wrappers we’re all used to painstakingly peeling away from our cured garlic? They are soft and savory and you just cut right through them when you prepare the immature head and the fleshy bottom of the stem.

I must have stolen at least a dozen of these treats out of the garlic patch before the rest of the heads were fully plumped up and the leaves were starting to dry down. I used them to flavor stocks, frittatas and stews, in stir-frying and fed a few of them to my husband raw to help clear sinus gunk from a cold.

This year we did two patches of garlic, a softneck, ‘Chinese Pink,’ and a hardneck, ‘Music,’ both from Territorial Seed. The ‘Chinese Pink’ said it was an “extra-early-maturing variety” and to expect it to be drying down late-May to June. ‘Music’ has a mid-late harvest, which usually means late-July in our part of California. They were both planted on October 4th, 2010. The ‘Chinese Pink’ went into a 4’x4′ raised bed. I may have planted more than 50 cloves. I harvested 30 of them, there are another ten still in the ground and I “borrowed” quite a few out of the bed to use green.

Measuring Garlic HeadsThe ‘Chinese Pink’ garlic has a mild, fresh flavor even after it has been cured. The heads, when they aren’t still covered in soil from the ground, have thin, pink vertical stripes on the outer wrappers. The ‘Chinese Pink’ was harvested even earlier than I could have imagined and rates as a big winner in our garden this year. Some of the heads are over 2″ across and the majority of the cloves in each head are a good size for peeling.

It looks like the ‘Music‘ is just starting to dry a few of it’s outer leaves. Better get out there and try some of it green before it’s too late!

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