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A head start on garlic

The arrival of spring — especially when fickle April weather brings intermittent snow — awakens cravings for something fresh and green.

Garlic lovers know how to scratch this itch: They snap up green garlic during its brief season — which is now.

Green garlic is the immature, not yet fully formed garlic bulb that will eventually mature into a head of papery skinned segmented cloves. Not to be confused with garlic scapes which actually are green, green garlic bulbs are white beneath transparent, pinky red or even purple external wrappers, depending on the variety of garlic.

A delicacy in many parts of the world, this large scallion-sized aromatic is gaining traction here as home cooks become more familiar with its slightly sweet, slight hot flavor punch. Use it raw for sharper flavor or mellow it out via cooking. Look for green garlic at farmers markets and specialty produce shops.

Use green garlic as you would any other form of garlic.

·   The white and green parts are both edible, but the white bulb is the prize here (wait until later in the season for garlic scapes). Remove the external wrapper. Trim away the roots and green stems. Wash the bulbs and mince finely.

·  Add raw to salads, sandwiches and dips. Or snack on green garlic with some good bread, feta cheese and olive oil.

· Saute until caramelized in olive oil or butter and add to stir-frys, sauces, bruschettas, omelets, etc. Sprinkle over entrees.

· Oven-roast in a bit of olive oil to mellow out the flavor.

·   Add during the last few minutes of cooking potatoes for mashed potatoes.

Green Garlic Dip

Yield: 3 cups

8 ounces  fresh chevre                                           

2 cups sour cream                                             

5 bulbs  minced green garlic bulbs

2 tablespoons  fresh chives, minced                                

¼ cup  fresh parsley, minced                                

2 tablespoons   green onions, white and light green parts only minced   

To taste  ground black pepper                                         

To taste  coarse sea salt                                              

Using a rubber spatula, fold together all the ingredients in a large bowl until just mixed, leaving the texture slightly chunky. Chill thoroughly before serving. Serve as a dip or use as a sandwich spread.