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Has Your Garlic Sprouted? Plant It in the Ground to Harvest Green Garlic in the Spring

Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/">Kate Ter Haar</a>/Flickr/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">Creative Commons</a>
Photo by Kate Ter Haar/Flickr/Creative Commons

Watch the California Matters episode about UC Santa Cruz Farm, a pioneering, organic farm that's benefiting an entire community.

At some point, we've probably all forgotten about those last few cloves of garlic lingering in the bottoms of baskets or the backs of cupboards. And we probably found them again weeks later, only to see green shoots sprouting out of the cloves. Or maybe we didn't realize that we shouldn't store garlic in the fridge, as the cold temperature triggers it to sprout.

Either way, sprouted garlic still has a use in the home, so don't toss it just yet! If the shoot is small and the clove hasn't turned soft, you can simply chop them together to add to whatever you're cooking. The shoot is edible, contrary to old wives' tales that it could make you sick, and it actually becomes milder in flavor as it grows. In fact, sprouted garlic produces delicious shoots (called green garlic or baby garlic) that are considered a farmers' market delicacy.

You'll usually find green garlic in late winter or early spring when farmers are thinning out their garlic crops. It's essentially an immature garlic whose head hasn't yet divided into cloves. While garlic as we know it is harvested in the summer, green garlic is harvested a few months earlier in the spring. It looks similar to a scallion, but with a larger bulb. The plant is edible from top to bottom, cooked or raw, and has a mild garlic flavor that won't overwhelm a dish. You can use the green shoots the way you'd use chives to garnish potatoes and soups. You can roast the bulbs with root vegetables (they turn sweeter as they caramelize) or grill the whole plant with a steak.

Green garlic has many uses in the kitchen, and it's incredibly easy to grow from your store-bought sprouted garlic. Even if your garlic hasn't sprouted, there's a good chance it will once it's in the soil, so don't be afraid to try!

First, separate all the cloves but do not peel them. You want the thin papery layer intact when you plant them.

In a sunny area with well-draining soil, plant each clove (pointy tip or green sprout facing up) about one inch deep. Space the cloves two inches apart and keep the soil moist (but not soggy) while the shoots are growing.

Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/williamholmes/">willholmes</a>/Flickr/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">Creative Commons</a>
Photo by willholmes/Flickr/Creative Commons

You can begin to harvest the shoots (cutting off the tips as desired) once they're about four inches tall, but never harvest more than a third of the plant. For maximum reward, however, I recommend waiting until the shoots reach at least eight to ten inches in height (about three months) and then harvesting the entire plant at once.

What's even more convenient is that you don't actually need a backyard to grow green garlic. Plant a few cloves in a container right alongside your basil and parsley, and enjoy fresh shoots from your windowsill!

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