While chatting to Sophie Perkins at Perwen Garlic recently, I was intrigued to learn just how much of the plant is edible. “We even plant those little cloves that are too difficult to peel,” she said. “They come up like chives or spring onions, have a lovely, mild flavour and are beautiful to cook with. In fact, we think they’re so good, we now grow them to sell – we call it green garlic.”
At Perwen, they don’t just sell the bulbs and green garlic, they reduce farm waste even more by harvesting garlic scapes. Before “hardneck” garlic species are ready to pick, they shoot up a snake-like, bendy flower bud. These are known as garlic scapes, and they’re wonderful grilled, sauteed, boiled or roasted. Grow your own, look for them at farmers’ markets or buy online.
If you have an abundance of old garlic bulbs, preserve them for months, if not years, by pickling: pour a 50:50 solution of hot water and vinegar, seasoned generously with salt and sugar, over the top of the peeled cloves and store in the fridge. Or make today’s moreish confit garlic, which has a rich, caramelly but mild flavour and is lovely just as it is, spread on toast, turned through pasta or used instead of, or as well as, fresh garlic.
If you have a load of garlic bulbs that are getting old, confit is a great way to turn them into something delicious. Some cooks remove the green sprout from the centre of garlic cloves, but I like its fresh, green, garlicky flavour, so always leave it in and chop it up along with the rest of the clove.
Garlic husks can be roasted (alongside onion skins), then ground into a deeply flavourful powder that makes a fabulous seasoning. I was astonished to come across a paper about garlic in Science Direct that reports husk waste to be a potential source of phenolic compounds, another benefit to add to garlic’s antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. It goes to show yet again how so much so-called food waste is, in fact, nutritious.
Extra-virgin olive oil, or oil of your choice
Separate and peel the garlic cloves, then put them in a small, thick-based saucepan and cover with oil. Turn on the heat to its lowest setting and bring the temperature up to just below a simmer, then leave to cook, still just below a simmer, for 30 minutes, or until soft. Take off the heat, leave the garlic and oil to cool, then decant both into a clean jar, seal and store in the fridge for up to two days or freeze for up to three months.