Spring Garlic

You can see the cloves starting to form on this one.

Sunday I got to the Farmers’ Market later than usual, it was already packed with people but choices were still good. The first thing I wanted to do was find the egg guy and trade in my used cartons. It seems like the only time I remember that I’m going to take them back is when I am at the market buying more eggs. Very happy with myself for finally remembering. Egg cartons returned and a fresh dozen in my basket I was off to see what looked good as far as vegetables go. I bought a nice bunch of chard, a green that I much prefer to kale or mustard greens, some beautiful, thin asparagus, some very nice baby spinach, more Fuji apples, tangerines and the subject of this weeks post, green or Spring garlic.

Garlic is a species in the onion family and green garlic is simply immature garlic, which has been pulled to thin the crop. Garlic, onions, shallots, leeks and chives are close relatives. Since I love all garlic’s cousins I guess it isn’t any surprise I love garlic. I love it in its mature form and delight every spring when I can get it in its immature form.

Green garlic is much milder than mature garlic. To use it trim off the root ends and any tough part of the green leaves. Chop or slice the white, light green and the first few inches of the dark green leaves (using only the leaves that are tender).

I read that the sticky juice within the cloves of mature garlic is used as an adhesive in mending glass and porcelain in China and that garlic has been around for about 6,000 years and is native to Central Asia. I also read that it was highly prized in early Egypt where it was even used as currency.

Here’s a little dish I prepared tonight using some of my fresh Spring garlic, left over baked Japanese sweet potatoes (Satsumaimo), a little butter and baby spinach.

First I thinly sliced the garlic, then placed it in a fly pan with a little butter and let the garlic gently cook until it had browned and was a little crispy. This isn’t something you would want to do with clove garlic as the taste of the garlic would be bitter. That doesn’t happen with the young version.  I then added the cooked garlic and butter to the Japanese sweet potatoes that had been peeled and mashed with a fork. Once this was done I made some little patties from the mixture then added them back into the frypan with just a touch of butter and gently fried the patties until they were crispy and browned, then turned them and did the same to the other side. When they were browned on both sides I removed them added the spinach and a splash of chicken stock (you can use water) added a lid and cooked the spinach until it had just wilted. That’s it, another one-pan yummy treat. Perfect for a spring evening.

You can find a recipe for green garlic and baby Bok Choy from one of my March 2010 posts here if you’d like another idea on how I’ve used it. It’s also excellent in any egg dish, think cheese and bacon omelet with spring garlic. If you can find Spring or green garlic at your Farmers’ Market or market, give it a try. I think you’ll like it.

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Satsumaimo or Japanese Sweet Potatoes

Strawberries weren’t the only things we bought at the Farmers’ Market on Sunday, although in Landon’s mind they were the only things that mattered. We also bought asparagus, snap peas, artichokes, green onions, Fuji apples and Japanese sweet potatoes.

Japanese sweet potatoes, or Satsumaimo, if you’re not familiar with them, have dark pink skin and cream-colored, slightly sweet flesh. I discovered these little gems at my local market a couple of years ago and have become a big fan, buying them whenever I find them. I like buying them when they are fairly small in size. I brought home four. Just enough for one meal of mashed potatoes and leftovers for fried potato cakes.

For dinner Sunday night, I paired the mashed Japanese sweet potatoes up with a nice steamed artichoke and a pork loin steak marinated with fresh sage leaves from my garden and rubbed with a little lemon and black pepper oil, then grilled to perfection.

To cook the sweet potatoes; I peel them and immerse them in water, to prevent them from browning, then cook them in simmering water until fork-tender, then mash them with some butter.  To fry the leftovers; make small 2 or 3” patties about ¼ “ thick and fry in olive oil until browned and crispy. These are so delicious. I love them paired up with grilled lamb chops and have converted quite a few fellow diners who were a little skeptical.

Next time you’re at the market look for Japanese sweet potatoes. You won’t be disappointed.

UPDATE:  12/14/2010

Here’s another way to use these beauties and this time it’s in pancakes for breakfast. Oh my were these good. Check out bitemekitchen.com for the recipe.