On the advice of friends, we are now the proud owners of eight massive heads of garlic, stems still attached. Apparently this is garlic season, so now is the time to stock up for the year. There are several reasons to do so, our friends told us — the garlic that we usually buy, which comes neatly packed in little plastic nets, is grown in China and processed with chemicals. Now, I couldn’t confirm that, but it turns out that China produces 77 percent of the world’s garlic supply, so the claim is entirely plausible. We’re also big proponents of buying local.
You can currently buy fresh garlic heads at the Carmel Market — we saw the heads alone selling for 20 shekels a kilo, while the ones with the stems attached, which our friends recommended, were going for 8 shekels a kilo in the Gaza shook section. There, we found a huge, smelly pile of garlic, with robust bulbs attached to several-foot-long stems and somewhat decaying leaves.We bought 8, for 22 shekels.
Most people who buy garlic this way leave the plants to dry (the garlic heads shrink in the process) and then braid the stems. Now, while it’s quite pretty to have a garlic braid hanging in your kitchen (and supposedly good luck to boot), that seemed like an awful waste to me — why not cook the greens instead?
The garlic greens themselves could be described as a garlic-flavored leek. I think you could find a lot of possible uses — which I’m planning to explore over the next week or two. Even after trimming off all the mushy and yellow leaves, I was left with quite a lot of firm stems.
I ground the first stem into a very garlicky paste, a pesto of sorts for pasta, mixed with ground romano cheese we brought back from Italy last year, walnuts and olive oil. It was quite good, but not for the faint of heart (or haters of garlic). If a strong garlic flavor isn’t your thing, you might consider using less greens than I did. Oh, and don’t eat this before a date.
One note about garlic greens — many of the recipes online for garlic greens refer to wild garlic, which is a different species than the garlic we grow primarily for its bulb. While I’ve never had wild garlic greens, I imagine they’re more tender than our version, which would be best ground or cooked, due to its tough, leek-like texture.
For one bowlful of garlic greens paste:
100 grams garlic greens (or less, if you don’t like a strong garlic flavor)
100 grams romano or another sharp cheese
100 grams walnuts
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt (you can always add more, which I usually do)
pinch ground cloves
Blend all ingredients thoroughly until well combined, and let sit for a few moments, so the flavors can combine. Serve on pasta, spread on bread, or eat however else you like.