Alliums are the plant family that includes all the onion-like crops we grow (and actually hundreds of species of cultivated, wild, edible, and ornamental plants). Garlic, onions, shallots, and leeks are all alliums. The sharp, bright flavor of alliums crops is easily distinguishable. If it’s a crop that makes you tear up a little when you cut into it, it’s probably an allium.
Culinary or cultivated alliums are wildly beneficial from a health perspective, the foundation to many dishes, and a fundamental part of cooking. This is why we love to grow a wide variety and abundance of allium crops and try to have at least one in every single CSA box we offer from April through November.
Garlicky things we grow
We offer four different types of garlic, which interestingly all come from the same plant during different stages of the year or plant’s life cycle.
Green garlic is the scallion equivalent of a garlic plant, meaning it is an immature garlic plant harvested before it has started to bulb. It is filled with garlic flavor, but is less sharp and pungent with a fresher taste. It also has the added benefit of being ready to harvest months before bulb garlic, making it a real spring treat. It is available in May and June (at both market and in our spring CSA shares).
The entire stalk is edible, but the top leaves are best pulsed in a food processor or very finely minced, and sauteed (as opposed to a raw preparation). Because it’s such a fun ingredient, many people want to do fun preparations with it (like a pesto, vinaigrette, or butter), but you can keep it simple too. Green garlic can be used in place of garlic in all spring and early summer recipes.
To store, keep unbanded and unwashed in the fridge. Washing them before storage will make them slimy, as will storing them for a long period of time (longer than a couple weeks). If your green garlic does get slimy, just peel off the outer layer and discard.
Garlic scapes are another spring delicacy, available at a similar time of year to green garlic (at markets and in CSA boxes in May and June). They are actually the immature flower stalks of hardneck garlic, a key part of the plant’s growth cycle. They need to be clipped so the garlic puts energy into bulbing instead of going to seed, making them essentially a delicious byproduct.
Technically the entire stalk is edible, but we like to remove the pointy part on top (the flower pod). The flower is filled with seeds and everything above that is rather tough.
Garlic scapes provide another opportunity to play and experiment before summer’s bounty begins (we love to grill them, pickle them, and add them into a delectable compound butter), but again, they can be used in any recipe that calls for regular cured garlic or even scallions. They are mild, a little sweet, and add a fun crunch to raw salads.
Green garlic can be stored banded or unbanded in your fridge, preferably in the crisper drawer, until ready to use. They store extraordinarily well, with just the ends getting a little “crispy” over time. We’ll store them for up to a month with little to no problems.
Before the cured garlic is finished curing, we sell fresh garlic at the Farmers’ Market and also put it inside our CSA boxes. This timeline occurs after we’ve harvested the garlic (usually early to mid-July) until we have cured garlic available (usually in early August).
Fresh garlic is exactly what it sounds like, garlic harvested fresh from the ground, cleaned, and brought to you before it has been cured (aka the process of drying down for storage purposes). Curing also makes the flavor a bit milder and removes some of the bite. Fresh garlic is potent and you don’t need to use quite as much. Otherwise, it can be used exactly the same as garlic you would get at the store.
Because it hasn’t been cured, you want to use fresh garlic relatively quickly (within a couple weeks) and store it in the crisper drawer of your fridge before use.
Of all the garlicky things we sell and put into CSA boxes, cured garlic will be the most familiar. This is exactly like what you would find in the store. It is available as soon as it’s cured (usually in mid-August) until we are out (usually close to the end of the year). We will have it at farmers’ market throughout this season and it will be in CSA boxes often, 4 times during the regular season and a couple times in the fall.
Because it has been cured, it doesn’t need to (and actually should not) go into the fridge. Cured garlic can be stored in a cool dark place for many months.
Oniony things we grow
We offer onions in some form through the majority of the farmers’ market and CSA season either as scallions, fresh (or spring) onions, or cured storage onions.
Scallions (also known as green onions):
We grow both traditional white and beautiful red/purple varieties of scallions on our farm as well as some that are overwintered (which just means they are planted in the fall, go dormant in winter, and then begin anew in spring for an extraordinarily early allium crop).
Most often we have scallions throughout the growing season beginning as early as May and running through November (or later). Occasionally, they start early thanks to overwintered beds. They will be at farmers’ market consistently through the season and in each season of CSA boxes a handful of times (but not every week).
In our opinion, scallions are one of the easiest alliums to use. Grab one, two, or three, slice them quickly, and toss them into a salad or grain bowl, or on top of pretty much any dish you’re serving as a garnish or to add a little more flavor. The white and pale green parts can also be sauted like an onion as the base for a meal or thrown into stir fries. The greens make great sauces (pureed with some other alliums or fresh herbs) and add amazing flavor to sandwich spreads. Whole scallions can even be grilled or served raw on relish trays.
To store, keep unbanded and unwashed in the fridge. Washing them before storage will make them slimy, as will storing them for a long period of time (longer than a couple weeks). If your scallions do get slimy, just peel off the outer layer and discard.
Fresh onions (with and without tops):
We grow red, yellow, and sweet onions at our farm, and all three will be given fresh- sometimes with their greens or tops, and sometimes without them. Much like fresh garlic, fresh onions are the onions we give you freshly harvested from our fields before any curing takes place.
We do this so we can have onions available earlier in the year. Onions are a long-season crop that take at least 100 days before being ready for harvest and curing. The curing process takes several more weeks. So, to provide onions earlier, we harvest them before they are fully mature and give them to you uncured, ready to use right away. We have fresh onions available at market from May to early August when cured onions become available. They will be common items in spring and early summer CSA boxes.
Their flavor of fresh onions is comparable to cured onions, just a little milder, so you can use them in absolutely any dish that calls for regular onions. You may just want to use more of them. If the tops are attached, those are absolutely edible as well. They look like a giant scallion green and that is essentially what they are. They can be used in similar ways.
Because fresh onions aren’t cured, they will need to be stored in the fridge and used much more quickly than storage (or cured) onions, within a couple of weeks. If the greens are attached, separate them from the onions with a knife and unband them before storage. The greens will last 4-5 days in the fridge.
These are the ones that “look like the onions in the store” and can be used as such. They will become available as early as July and last until we run out in November or December. They are a staple part of our market stand and summer and fall CSA boxes.
Because these onions have been cured, they don’t need to (and actually should not) go into the fridge. Cured onions can be stored in a cool dark place for many months.
Other alliums we grow
There are a couple alliums we grow that don’t fit into the onion or garlic category perfectly. These are ramps, which are actually foraged on our land and not grown, as well as shallots and leeks.
Technically foraged on our property, ramps are a spring delicacy. They are one of the first foragable items to appear in the spring and I think that’s why people go so crazy for them. They look like a scallion or green onion with a slightly broader leaf, more bulbous root, and more garlicky flavor.
In our region, their season usually begins in mid-to late April and runs through early May. We will bring them to market around that time and usually try to put them in the spring CSA boxes at least once.
Just like scallions and green garlic, the whole stalk is edible. The white and pale green parts are great for creamy dishes like risotto or pasta, and the greens make an excellent base for herby green sauces. Just like scallions, they can be grilled or added into quick sautes. We also love to use the whole stalk (pale portions and greens) in quiche or to make an herb butter so the ramp flavor lasts a little longer.
Store them unbanded in the crisper drawer of your fridge and try to use them within a couple days. Much like scallions and green garlic, the outer layer is prone to getting slimy with longer term storage, but since they are so small and delicate, peeling that slimy layer away leaves you with far less ramp to work with.
Shallots are, essentially, just tiny little extra beautiful onions packed with flavor. We grow just a few of these pearly pink beauties and harvest and cure them mid-summer for limited availability in late summer and early fall at markets and in CSA boxes.
Their flavor is similar to onions, but richer. Shallots are sweeter, more delicate, and much less sharp than onions with an almost garlicky undertone. You can use them just like onions, but its fun to use them somewhere their flavor really shines (like this caramelized shallot dip or this caramelized shallot pasta, or fried to garnish pretty much anything). They are also commonly used as a base for salad dressings when minced really finely.
All our shallots are cured, meaning they store well in a cool dark place for many months.
Leeks are the last allium to be harvested at our farm and one of the crops we grow with the longest season. They look, essentially, like a giant green onion or green garlic stalk. They have a very sweet, oniony flavor that cooks down quickly and adds amazing depth of flavor to pretty much anything you put them in.
We grow several different varieties of leeks on our farm ranging from tall and slender to shorter and thicker. The leek harvest begins in September and runs through October. They’ll be available at markets reliably then as well as in the summer and fall CSA boxes a couple times each. Leeks store well, so depending on the yields, we’ll continue to have them available into November.
Leeks are very versatile and can be used as the foundation of pretty much any dish (much like an onion). They are well known for French dishes like Leek & Potato Soup and Quiche Loraine because they pair beautifully with potatoes and eggs, but should be experimented with well beyond that. We love them grilled, roasted, in pasta, in risotto and even on pizza.
To store, keep leeks in the crisper drawer of your fridge. They’ll do well anywhere in the fridge but keep a little better in the crisper drawer because it keeps them well hydrated. They’ll store very well in there, like weeks to months. Much like green onions and green garlic, the outer layer may get slimy with time, but you can just peel it away and use the rest.
Creative ways to use alliums
We use alliums as the base of pretty much all of our meals so we never really have trouble using up these delicious vegetables that literally seem to melt down when cooked down, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a range of fun ways to utilize them when you get an over-abundance.
Compound butters are butters that have been infused with other ingredients. They’re a great way to preserve your alliums or even just make them stretch if you don’t get a lot of them (like in the case of green garlic, ramps, or shallots. AND, they’re incredibly easy to make: all you need to do is soften the butter, finely chop whatever you plan to add and stir it in. Some things are better cooked a bit first. Experiment or do some quick googling to see what will work best. Our favorites are ramp butter (just blanch the ramp greens first) and charred scallion butter. Caramelized shallot butter is also super tasty.
Wondering how to use your compound butters? Throw a slice onto a cooked steak, pork chop or filet of fish. Serve with crunchy spring radishes. Finish roasted or grilled vegetables with a dollop or five. Serve it on toast anytime of day. It won’t be hard to use.
In dressings and sauces
Alliums make amazing sauces. You can mince up any of the alliums we grow and whisk them into a vinaigrette or dressing to add a little more flavor or complexity, or alliums can be the main event of the sauce you’re making. Think salsa verde, pesto, or chimichurri, but with alliums forming the base of the sauce. It could be a bunch of scallions, green garlic, or ramps. Just throw the whole bunch in your food processor and blend with some olive oil, lemon juice, other herbs, salt and pepper. Use this NYTimes Cooking sauce as a template.
A great way to use up unfamiliar, intimidating or an overload of alliums is to add them to salads. Slice them thinly and toss a few onto whatever salad you’re eating. If you don’t like their sharp flavor, just soak them for 10-15 minutes in cold water before adding to your salad.
If you want to spend a little extra time and effort, you can even fry your onions, shallots, or leeks for an extra decadent salad topping.
Nothing goes better together than some tender onions folded into your quiche, strata or scrambled eggs. Quickly sauted or caramelized, this is a great way to use up those onions and onion greens.
In chili crisps/crunch
There’s this hot food trend happening right now, and it involves putting garlic or garlicky items (like pretty much any other allium) into hot oil with a little red pepper flakes and cooking them until a little brown and crispy.
There are a million variations of this online and then the yummy crispy, crunchy topping can be drizzled over anything: noodles, stir fries, grain bowls, soups, curries, roasted veggies, etc, etc, the list goes on and on. Here’s our favorite way to make it. And here’s our favorite recipe that riffs on the idea, turning it into a quick and simple noodle dish.
A great way to transform onions for a simple meal (like tacos, burgers, salads, or grain bowls) is to quickly pickle them before you add them to the dish. Use a combination of vinegar, sugar, and water (plus some aromatics if you like). Here’s a great how to by Cookie + Kate.
Some people also swear by pickling green garlic and garlic cloves (fresh or cured) in a water bath canner for longer-term storage. We also wind up using them fresh, but if you have an excess or want to stock up for winter, it’s a great approach!
One thing we’ve been enjoying doing with our leeks lately is melting them aka cooking them down until they are so soft they melt in your mouth. These are great on toasted bread, in pasta or rice dishes, and over meat and fish.
Classic recipes using alliums
Potato Leek Soup
Recipe by skinnytaste
Yield: 6 servings
Time: 30 minutes
4 medium leeks, dark green stems removed
1/2 large white onion, chopped
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 tablespoon flour, use AP gluten free flour for GF
1 tablespoon butter
4 cups chicken stock, use vegetable broth for vegetarians
1/2 cup 2% milk
Salt and fresh pepper
- Wash leeks very carefully to remove all grit. I usually cut them horizontally and separate the rings to make sure no dirt remains. Coarsely chop them when washed.
- In a medium soup pot, melt butter and add flour on low flame.
- Using a wooden spoon, mix well. This will thicken your soup and give it a wonderful flavor.
- Add chicken stock, leeks, onion, potatoes and bring to a boil.
- Cover and simmer on low for about 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are soft.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth adding the milk and adjusting salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately.
Scallion Pancakes With Chili-Ginger Dipping Sauce
Recipe by Bon Appetit
This is not a totally traditional style of making a scallion pancake, but we love it because its a lot simpler than making a traditional scallion pancake. Also, this is great with green garlic, garlic scapes, scallions, ramps, leeks, fresh onion greens, or even diced onion or shallot. It’s traditionally done with scallion greens but you can experiment here. It’s essentially just a yummy allium fritter.
Yield: 4 pancake
Time: 35 minutes
1 ½” piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Pancakes and Assembly
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup chilled club soda
2 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
10 scallions, thinly sliced on a diagonal (about 2 cups)
4 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Whisk sauce ingredients together in a small goal until sugar is dissolved. Set sauce aside.
- Whisk flour, cornstarch, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk club soda, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a medium bowl to combine, then pour into dry ingredients and whisk until smooth (be careful not to overmix; it’s okay if there are a few small lumps). Fold in scallions.
- Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high. Pour ¼ cup batter into skillet. Cook, moving pan around on the burner for even cooking, until bottom of pancake is set and golden, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook, pressing down on pancake to create direct contact with pan, until other side is golden, about 1 minute. Continue cooking, turning often to keep scallions from burning, until golden brown and crisp and cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer pancake to a wire rack. Repeat process with remaining batter and remaining 3 Tbsp. oil 3 more times to make a total of 4 pancakes.
- Cut each pancake into wedges if desired and serve with reserved sauce on the side for dipping.
Essential French Onion Soup
Recipe by: Smitten Kitchen
Yield: 8 servings
Time: 2 1/2 hours
3 pounds thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Fine sea salt
1/4 cup dry sherry, vermouth, or white wine (optional)
1 bay leaf or a few sprigs of thyme (optional, and honestly, I rarely bother)
2 quarts (8 cups) beef, chicken, or vegetable (mushroom is excellent here) stock, the more robust the better
Freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove
One (3/4- to 1-inch) thick slice of bread for each bowl of soup
1/4 cup grated gruyere, comte, or a mix of gruyere and parmesan per toast
- Caramelize your onions: Melt butter in the bottom of a 5- to 6-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, toss to coat them in butter and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let them slowly steep for 15 minutes. They don’t need your attention.
- Uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly and stir in salt — I start with between 1 and 2 teaspoons of fine sea salt, or twice as much kosher salt. Cook onions, stirring every 5 minutes (you might be fine checking in less often in the beginning, until the point when the water in the onions has cooked off) for about 40 to 90 minutes longer.
[What? That range is crazy. Stoves vary so much, even my own. If your onions are browning before 40 minutes are up, reduce the heat to low, and if that’s still cooking too fast, try a smaller burner. The longer you cook the onions, the more complex the flavor, but when you’re happy with it, you can stop — the ghost of Julia Child will not haunt you, the Shame Wizard will not taunt you or anything.]
- Make the soup: Onions are caramelized when they’re an even, deep golden brown, sweet and tender. Add sherry or vermouth, if using, and scrape up any onions stuck to pan. Cook until it disappears. Add stock, herbs (if using), and a lot of freshly ground black pepper and bring soup to a simmer. Partially cover pot and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed; discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf if you used them.
- While soup is finishing, heat your broiler, and if you don’t have a broiler, heat your oven as hot as it goes. If your bread is not already stale (i.e. you did not leave the slices out last night to harden, probably because nobody told you to), toast them lightly, until firm. Rub lightly with a raw garlic clove. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange soup bowls/vessels on top.
- To finish: Ladle soup into bowls. Fit a piece of toast (trimming if needed) onto each. Sprinkle with cheese. Run under broiler until cheese is melted and brown at edges. Garnish with herbs. You can eat it right away but it’s going to stay hot for a good 10 minutes or so, if you need more time.