Menu Inspiration of the Week: Green Garlic
While we’ve got one month until official spring and barring meteorological catastrophe it looks like an early landing this year. Our stalwart partners Rick and Kristie Knoll say the dry, cold winter in Brentwood bodes well for bumper crops of stone fruit. It also means a later start for them on their unparalleled green garlic, known by many as THE green garlic. “We’re a bit behind seasonal norm this year. Our green garlic was frozen to the ground for six weeks, and needs another couple weeks until we really get going on harvest”, said Rick. We will augment from Capay.
Knoll green garlic is recognized as the “green” standard, for many reasons. To start, as anyone who’s visited Knoll Farms has seen, it’s grown with “beyond organic” practices. It’s irrigated with an amazing biodynamic brew and grown in rich soil that has benefited from over 3 decades of mindful, educated stewardship. The Knolls have developed their own strain of green garlic that is prized for its aromatic, relatively mellow flavor. While carrying some pleasing initial heat, the often fiery aftertaste of other garlic varieties is absent. The Knoll’s also have successive planting, harvest, cleaning and packing details honed to a fine point. Once the crop comes on, you can plan on consistently sized, clean, fresh green garlic with unparalleled flavor. Green garlic takes 5-6 months on average to mature, which means land is tied up for a long time, and this makes it a more expensive crop to grow than those with a shorter growing cycle. There may be less expensive green garlic out there, but none consistently better tasting or cleaner.
Beyond pairing with any permutation of pasta, pesto or pizza, this spring harbinger is a welcome addition to soufflés, soups, risotto, sauces, puddings, aioli, and stews. Basically the herbaceous nature of green garlic brightens any dish made with mature garlic cloves, from roasting proteins to vinaigrettes and marinades, to any sautéed vegetable.
Rick, a huge green garlic proponent, says, “when a big restaurant uses only three pounds a week, I laugh. I wish restaurants would replace the butter ramekins with a raw green garlic-infused olive oil. That would be awesome. People would go nuts over that. I’ve seen chefs throw the green part away and that drives me crazy.”
GreenLeaf is proud and grateful to have been one of Knoll Farms primary customers for well over two decades. As with all our great grower/partners, we have helped each other grow.
Rick and Kristie are working on a book about their crops, focusing on growing methodologies, and will feature lots of recipes and pictures. Stay tuned, and eat your green garlic.
3 Food Questions
Weekly interview with local chefs, cheese mongers and farmers
Knoll Farms, Brentwood
Working with GreenLeaf since: 1983
Specialties: Green Garlic, Figs, Rosemary, Apricots, Plums, Cardoon, Fava Leaves
Earliest Food Memory:
Eating oatmeal with our pig, Mr. Sheen, on our ½ acre garden growing up. We got a little pig, and it became a pet. It would smell my mom making oatmeal for me, and would start squealing and butting the back door. He wanted some too. We loved him, he let us hug him, and he got his oatmeal. In time he reached 350 pounds, and my dad was afraid he’d step on us. One day he disappeared. It wasn’t until much later that I found out he had turned into bacon and pork chops.
It just evolved. I was a corpsman in Vietnam. Just out of the service I was in SOCAL earning my doctorate in organic chemistry. I met Kristie, who helped me deal with my compromised immune system. We got into organic garden, juicing, had chickens, eating more raw food. The goal was to do post doctorate work and become a professor. I ended up working for an aerospace company in Pittsburg. Kristie and I found a 10 acre farm with a little house in Brentwood, and in addition to growing good food for ourselves, soon had planted over 600 fruit trees. In 6 years we had gained enough confidence to switch to full time farming.
Favorite green garlic recipe?
Our favorite is to chop super- fine and put it on just about everything. We don’t believe in cooking it a lot. We’ll drizzle bread with olive oil, heat it, then dump a whole bunch of green garlic on and cover until it just wilts. Or smear fromage blanc on a baguette, and heap raw green garlic on it. It’s fantastic raw in an arugula salad.
Apricots. Without using organically approved fungicides (sulfur, copper) it’s the most difficult thing, even with. If weather is ripe for brown rot to grow, there’s really nothing you can do, and from first bloom it takes a month to know you’re not going to get any fruit. As a farmer, it can be heartbreaking.
Farm to Table
Inspiration from local chefs
Working with GreenLeaf since: 1998
Earliest food memory?
Making breakfast w/my grandfather in Eagle Rock, CA. He grew up on one of the first farms in San Fernando Valley, had a butcher shop, and was the cook in the family. As a kid it was amazing to me watching him flip flapjacks up in the air, never missing the pan.
An amuse bouche of Lemon Ricotta Potato Gnocchi, crisped and topped with a dollop of green garlic confit which is cooked simply and slowly in olive oil to let it be green garlic.
Favorite winter vegetable?
Parsnips. A very under-appreciated vegetable. So sweet!
Service. A difficult lesson learned a long time ago is that service is more important than your food.
You can never turn away from it. It is a constant pressure, a challenge, and a great joy to instill and maintain great standards. I believe we have really good service.
This week’s tidbit: What is Alpha?
Why“Alpha-ing”, one part of our sustainability practices.
When one of our grower/partners has a fantastic, organically/cleanly grown, local piece of fruit or veggie, we work with them to see if in exchange for some serious volume, we can come close to conventional pricing. If we can work that out to the farmer and chef’s benefit, then we switch exclusively to that item.
This is what we mean by “alpha-ing”. This provides our customers with really terrific local fare, supports those growers using sustainable growing practices, and ideally incentivises others to come on board. Local money stays in the community, agricultural land is more mindfully tended, and diners benefit, too. Hopefully happy diners become/remain regular diners, and spread word of their delicious experiences out via mouth and social media. As a distributor, our 3 decade experience is that sticking with quality minded growers over the years versus chasing the “cheapest” is a solid business model. Our customers can rely on consistently sized, fresh, high yielding and great tasting produce. Often the “cheaper” deal is not the best value. Quality, yield, freshness and flavor can suffer. That can lead to shortages, frustration, and lackluster food going out to your diners. Not a good thing. Count on us for the likes of County Line mixed baby lettuce and chicories, Coke Farms celery root and Meyer lemons, Knoll Farms rosemary, Castagnetto Farms mint, T & D Willey Farms baby turnips, Nantes carrots and Bloomsdale spinach, and Andy Boy broccoli rabe. This is what “Alpha” means to us.
Cross fingers that serious cold snap northward does not wend into our neck of the woods; if it does, all local asparagus bets are off. Nascent shoots are extremely cold-sensitive, and a frost could pretty much wipe out this years crop. In this cold, Delta Queen is harvesting only once or twice weekly. That said, the spears are delicious and pretty- purple tipped from cooler weather.
Mexican Favas are in and not bad. Some sightings at farmer’s markets of more local beans, but growers barely have enough for the Farmer’s Market, where it’s a more profitable proposition for them. We’re a few weeks away from local favas reaching critical mass.
Allium a go-go! Early spring harbingers are on, well, early! Beyond green garlic, beautiful, succulent organic spring onions are in, both red and white, plus Coke baby leeks. Ramps will pop up most likely toward late March. We’ve got some arugula rabe and Sausalito Springs watercress for you, too.
Blood oranges should run through early-mid March. It’s prime Meyer lemon time. Pixie mandarins are due in mid-March, with Tahoe Golds fading out. Tiny sized, huge flavored organic Kishu mandarins are in from Oaji for their short, sweet season
CA Brussels Sprouts done, now from MX , time for local spring onions, asparagus, ALBA Broccoli di Ciccio, Capay purple and cheddar cauliflower.
Berries- Quality of MX blackberries improved, CA raspberries decent, Chilean blueberries only fair, and continued cold in Oxnard means a strong Strawberry market, with ripeness challenged fruit this week. Santa Maria to start soon.
Best foraged fungals still Black Trumpets and Hedgehogs. A dry winter means a dearth of Chanterelles. Oregon truffles are yours with a preorder.
Wilgenberg hothouse tomatoes due in early March.
Good values this week include broccoli, leeks, cabbage, lettuce and spinach, plus MX Blue Lakes, corn, cucumbers, squash, and peppers. Strong markets on MX limes, CA fennel. Typical for February, avoid melons.
Done for the season are Crab, Lady, and Honeycrisp apples.