When I was just a little girl, my Grandma Sarah, a woman who exuded with love and anxiety, would get nervous at the slightest sneeze, cough or cut. She would immediately pounce on us with a huge hug and a hot drink with something sweet to go with it, murmuring all the while, “Just stay healthy, little one.”
“Grandparent words,” I thought, or rather – did not give it any extra thought, “Words that belong to anxious grandparents, like Grandma Sarah.” But of course, as I grew older, I discovered just how right she was and how much truth these words carry for us. Just stay healthy!
These tumultuous days have rendered Grandma’s words more relevant than ever, and health has become the number one priority. For our part, we are doing everything we can to keep you healthy via our vegetables. And to prove just how serious we are, we are sending one or more representatives of a healthy and health-inducing family which protect your respiratory organs and prevent common colds: meet Dr. Leek, Dr. Onion and Dr. Garlic. And there is no better time than now to introduce their special spring representative, smiling below:
At first glance, this fresh green garlic may resemble a great big scallion, but its garlic aroma is unmistakable… Its bulb is bigger than a scallion’s (but not yet the size of a full-grown garlic bulb) and its greens are long and flat, not hollow like the scallion. This is one of the last seasonal vegetables: it turns up in Israeli markets at the end of February-beginning of March, just when winter is beginning to ebb and spring glimmers here and there between wintry clouds. It remains only a short while, till April. Green garlic is a unique vegetable, a childish, though not entirely infantile, gentle and innocent version of its pungent older brother, bringing to my mind – as a garlic lover– thoughts of the power of gentleness and tranquility, of childhood and maturity. We have been growing green garlic in Chubeza since our very first season, where it made a debut in our first spring boxes. By now, it’s been with us for sixteen springs.
Garlic is seeded in mid-September. We actually seed it by pushing garlic cloves into the earth. (You can do it yourself!) Even regular store-bought garlic can be used as a seed to spawn a new garlic bulb. Naturally, we use organic garlic cloves grown especially for this purpose, with the stronger and bigger cloves pre-selected for us, but also because the seeds are (supposed to be) free of pathogens (which is very hard to determine). The garlic shoots out a root, sprouts, settles nicely under the earth before winter, and then begins the wait. Just like the onion, its cousin from the Liliaceae family, the garlic waits patiently for its cue – the first signs of the days growing longer and also warmer after December 21– to begin to thicken and develop a bulb.
Despite garlic’s sterling reputation as an insect repellent (and rightfully so – insects do not really care for it), growing green garlic in the field is not a simple task. The garlic, whose leaves are erect and straight, needs our help in battling weeds, and garlic beds require constant weeding. It is also vulnerable to various fungi and other diseases which may strike. Since fungi thrive on heat and moisture, over the past few warm winters the garlic crop became more and more difficult to grow. Even in a relatively dry winter, there is enough moisture in the air and earth for the fungus to develop, particularly when temperatures are not low enough to deter it. Thus for some years now, fungi have damaged our garlic crop by rotting out its roots and drying and yellowing its leaves.
In organic (as well as conventional) agriculture, it is recommended to confront imminent threats to the garlic first and foremost by prevention: only plant garlic or other Liliaceaes in the same plot in five-year rounds, and use seeds from a reliable pathogen-clean source. There are also those who advise sterilizing the earth before seeding. In organic farming, this means solar disinfection: spreading clear plastic sheets over the ground, causing the earth to heat up to that temperature which kills the disease-causing elements, while still allowing the survival of microorganisms within the soil. Above all, the most crucial requirement is to create and maintain a strong, fertile earth. Accordingly, at Chubeza we rotate our garlic plots in the field, and buy seeds from a reliable source. Several years ago, we also carried out a solar sterilization for the first time in various beds in the field, where we then planted the garlic (though we subsequently decided not to continue with this method). Naturally, cultivating the fertility of the earth is one of our ongoing tasks, and a strong, fertile earth proves itself able.
The fungus usually strikes towards springtime, when temperatures rise. Thus picking green garlic at this time is, traditionally, our way to try to beat the system: once we detect signs of fungus-damage in a specific bed, we begin selectively picking the garlic whose roots were injured but whose bulbs remain nice, round and unharmed. We then bundle them up for use as fresh garlic. The garlic that was free of fungus continues to grow in the bed, now enjoying a more spacious area underground to spread out. Once the garlic plants hit maturity, we pick them and dry them in the sun (indirect sun, under a blanket of leaves).
This year, thankfully, most of our garlic yield is nice and damage-free, though one of our younger plots is looking a bit weak. We will be harvesting the green garlic for delivery over the next few weeks, mixing those from the younger plot and its older brother. The rest of the beds will wait, together with us, with throbbing hearts and a silent prayer, as they grow into impressive garlic bulbs which we will pick and dry.
The garlic plant contains an inactive ingredient named alliin. When we cut into the garlic, thus damaging its cells, alliin turns into an active sulfur compound named Allicin, which is the antibiotic within it. Allicin is a disinfectant that is effective in fighting infections, parasites and inflammations. This is why it is successful against the cough and common cold, infections (respiratory, digestions, eyes, ears, teeth…), intestinal inflammations and even against aggressive germs, like the flu germs.
Green garlic contributes to lowering levels of blood pressure and triglycerides, battling “bad” cholesterol and raising the levels of “good” cholesterol. Another advantage is Mr. Garlic’s ability to decrease blood clotting and assist in deconstructing them, thus reducing the chance of atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes. Other ingredients assist in treating melanoma and preventing cancer of the large intestine. It also protects against the damages of diabetes and prevents accumulation of body fat.
Green garlic is milder than dry garlic (which is more mature and becomes more concentrated, sharper and firmer in the drying process), and not as fetid. Use green garlic as you would a scallion. Its little white bulb is nice, but its long green leaves are tasty and quite useful – at least 6-15 cm of juicy leaves stretch from the bulb. Like leeks, the green garlic’s stem can trap some dirt within it, so it’s best to give it a nice rinse prior to use. The orange-brown speckles dotting the leaves are merely traces of the puccinia – a fungus that attacks garlic leaves. It is harmless for human beings and there is absolutely no problem using the garlic leaves, though if they are very contaminated, they may be best cooked rather than fresh in a salad.
Store fresh garlic greens in your refrigerator for three to four days. After you have used the greens, you may store the garlic bulbs in a ventilated basket in the kitchen, without refrigeration.
Green garlic can be added to salads, omelets, sauces, baked goods and dough, made into a spread, grilled, blanched, sautéed in olive oil, or any other use you can think of. Its mild taste makes it a super candidate for garlic soup. Check out our recipe section for a host of wonderful ways to use fresh green garlic.
And what’s really nice is that garlic can easily grow as a plant outside your window: stick a garlic clove in the earth, water it and give it time. It will reward you by sprouting beautiful greens for you to chop and add to any dish that is enhanced by yummy, mild garlic.
Wishing you health, joy, strength and a nice, huge breath of air,
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin, Yochai and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Cauliflower/cabbage/slice of pumpkin, potatoes, carrots, green fava beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, celeriac/parsley root, Swiss chard/kale/chubeza (mallow) greens, parsley, lettuce, leeks/green garlic/onions.
Large box, in addition: Peas, coriander, beets/baby radishes
FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, oranges, pomelit/red grapefruit, apples.
Wednesday: Cauliflower/cabbage/slice of pumpkin, potatoes, carrots, green fava beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, celeriac/parsley root, Swiss chard/kale/chubeza (mallow) greens, parsley, lettuce, beets/baby radishes/kohlrabi.
Large box, in addition: Peas, coriander, green garlic/onions.
FRUIT BOXES: Bananas/avocado, oranges, pomelit/red grapefruit, apples/celmantinot.