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April showers bring spring alliums. Huzzah! We snag our tote bags, skip to the farmers market, squeal at all the fruits and flowers and vegetables and then: Um, green garlic, is that you? Sorry, um, I mean, green garlic, is that you? It’s been a minute.
There’s a lot of pressure to make the most of spring alliums, which are only here for a hot second, which feels special and exciting. But that's the problem. If you only hang out with an ingredient once a year, how are you going to get comfortable with it?
Say you go on a great first date. You talk for hours, hug, maybe even smooch, then: So long! See you next April! And that’s when you have your second date. And you repeat this every year. See how it goes. Spoiler alert: not well, don’t do this.
Spring alliums are like that. You'd want to marry them if you could. But you can't. So, to make the most of your spring fling: a primer, a background check, a dating profile. This way, when you meet up this year, you’re already two steps ahead: You’re from New York, right? Hey, me too! You have a cat, right? Um, same! Aw, you guys. You’re going to be so great together.
- Also known as: wild leeks; Allium tricoccum.
- Fun facts: Their season is barely a month long. Also, Twitter?
- Flavor: strong, garlicky, oniony.
- Look: long, oval, green leaves; thin, tender bulbs.
- How to use: keep things crunchy with a vinegar pickle; get funky a la kraut or kimchi; sauté to toss with pasta or pile on polenta; char under the broiler or on the grill, then sprinkle on pizza; process into cheesy, nutty pesto.
- Also known as: Chinese chives; Chinese leeks; Allium tuberosum.
- Fun fact: Their white blossoms are edible, too (hello, Insta-friendly salad garnishes!).
- Flavor: assertive and garlicky.
- Look: flat, thicker than standard scallions, and tall (circa 15 inches!); dark green.
- How to use: “One of the most important ingredients in simple supper stir-fries and dumpling stuffings,” writes Fuchsia Dunlop in Every Grain of Rice. She stir-fries them with pork or smoked tofu, and turns them into an omelet. Our favs: scrambled eggs with almost-burnt toast; buttered noodles; Green Goddess dressing.
- Also known as: garlic stems; Allium sativum.
- Fun fact: These grow from garlic bulbs, like hair, or a Chia pet.
- Flavor: grassy, garlicky, and pungent, but not as pungent as garlic itself.
- Look: all over the place, winding this way and that, like scallion meets spaghetti.
- How to use: Fuchsia (see above) loves these, too: “Once you’ve discovered garlic stems, you’ll never look back.” She stir-fries them with bacon or mushrooms—both begging to be served with soft-scrambled eggs. Also good: allium-forward fried rice, herby garlic bread; pesto.
- Also known as: young garlic; spring garlic.
- Fun fact: This is just immature garlic. (Who knew immature could be so tasty?)
- Flavor: milder than its future self, but similarly punchy when raw, mellower when cooked.
- Look: depends on how old the garlic is. As a tween, it’s a spring onion doppelganger with a purply-pink base. As it gets ready to go off to college, its bulb becomes more, well, bulbous.
- How to use: Prep like a leek, discarding the tough tops (or save for down-the-road soups or broths), then chop both the green and white parts. When I worked in a bakery, we would poach chopped green garlic in honey water, then use as a filling for crostatas. Despite the name, we treat these less like garlic and more like...
- Also known as: “king of the soup onion” (according to The Joy of Cooking); Allium porrum.
- Fun fact: Okay, more like a warning: These hoard grit! Either split lengthwise or chop, then wash, then wash again.
- Flavor: mild, oniony, almost sweet.
- Look: like a Hulk-ified scallion.
- How to use: turn into chunky, brothy soups, especially chicken-matzo ball; sauté, like onions, and put toward a frittata or creamy pasta; braise until jammy and top with something crispy, like breadcrumbs or bacon bits or both.
- Also known as: young onions
- Fun fact: not the same as a green onion (see below!).
- Flavor: mild and mellow; a foot-in-the-door allium for people who “don’t like” onions.
- Look: a lot like scallions, but with a curvier bottom; the bulb may be white or red.
- How to use: vinegar-pickle; grill whole; or, divide and conquer, treating the green tops like scallions, the bulbs like teeny-tiny onions.
- Also known as: green onion.
- Fun fact: Just to keep it really confusing, in Canada and the United Kingdom, these are sometimes also known as spring onions.
- Flavor: oniony, spunky, slightly spicy.
- Look: slim, with firm white bottoms and hollow, green, tubular tops.
- How to use: finely chop as a garnish for anything that needs a raw pop or crunchy-crunch (think grain salads, fried rice); char and turn into a gremolata for grilled proteins, from chicken to tofu, fish to steak; braise into blissful, saucy oblivion; pancakes!
What spring allium do you most look forward to every year? Tell us how you use it in the comments!