This week’s vegetable is “exotic” simply because it’s only available a few weeks out of the year, and because we don’t recognize it in its immature form. Green garlic is actually just young, spring garlic pulled up early before it divides into the multi-clove bulbs we are used to seeing in grocery stores. Farmers pull it up early to make space for the rest of the garlic to mature and grow, a process called thinning. Helpful for farmers, delicious for us.
Green garlic looks a bit like an oversized green onion crossed with a leek, yet with a bright but mellow garlic flavor. You can even use the green parts if they aren’t too fibrous for your liking (or put them in a ziplock in the freezer along with your other veggie scraps to make stock like I do!). You can eat it raw or cooked, in salads, pesto, stews, pizza, omelettes, or any other dish you’d like to add delicious springtime garlickyness to.
Anyone who gets excited about nutrition also probably gets excited about garlic. It is one of the oldest medicinal plants, used for thousands of years for its antimicrobial properties. This “poor man’s penicillin,” as it’s sometimes called, can even be applied topically to treat fungal infections like ringworm. It may also have cardiovascular benefits including lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and atherosclerosis. The active component in garlic, allicin, has such a significant blood-thinning effect that one should discontinue using garlic before surgery!
The recipe I’ve created to feature this bright, flavorful ingredient is a pureed soup that can be served hot or cold, with a dollop of lemon cardamom Greek yogurt. I have to say, it is one of the most perfect combinations I’ve ever tasted. Although my soup doesn’t even contain asparagus, I was inspired by an asparagus vichyssoise recipe I saw in Chef Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Plenty.
A couple things to remember when you make this… First of all, leeks and green garlic can contain a lot of dirt and grit under their many layers. To help remove it all, slice them first into fine rounds (white and light green parts only) and soak them in a bowl of water, swishing them around a little bit. The dirt will settle at the bottom and you can scoop the leeks and garlic off the top.
Secondly, don’t add the spinach until the very end, when the soup has already cooked. After the soup has boiled for about 20 minutes, I throw in the spinach and turn it off. This way the spinach retains it’s flavor, color, and nutritional value without getting overcooked.
Thirdly, you can use ground cardamom, or you can buy cardamom pods and grind it in
a mortar. The first ways easier, the second way is more fun. :o)
I just had another bowl– cold this time– to fuel my blog-writing session. I am begging you to make this simple recipe and join me in my enjoyment. And promise me you won’t skip the lemon cardamom yogurt; it really does make the dish complete.
Green Garlic Soup with Lemon Cardamom Yogurt
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound leeks
- 1 pound green garlic
- 1 pound yellow potatoes, peeled
- 6 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 bunches spinach (about 10 oz), roughly chopped
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Chop the leeks and green garlic (white and light green parts only) and soak them in water to remove dirt. Drain.
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and green garlic and sautée for 10 minutes until softened. Dice the potato and add to the pot along with the vegetable stock and salt. Cover and bring to a boil before lowering to a simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the spinach and turn the heat off immediately.
Meanwhile, zest the lemon into the Greek yogurt and stir in the cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the juice from half of the lemon.
Puree the soup using a hand-blender or a standing blender. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve hot or chilled with a dollop of the lemon cardamom yogurt.