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Culinary uses for Elephant Garlic leaves  RSS feed

 
Dan Boone
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Hey, I've got a "wild" allium on my property that gives every appearance of being naturalized elephant garlic. I keep discovering more patches where it has spread across one of my pastures that the forest is reclaiming.

It's got long flat leaves that have an absolutely pungent and delightful garlic flavor -- when they are raw. But they're really too fibrous at this stage of growth for good raw eating; they are like tough blades of grass.

Chopped up fine, they make a good greens addition to vegetable soup; chopped a bit more coarsely (into 3/4 inch long chunks) they are just "OK" (because they remain a little bit chewy and grass-like) as cooked greens (I typically steam them, since one of my default meals is a mix of different steamed vegetables). But here's the rub with cooking them: the *instant* they are hit with the least little bit of steam or hot water, they seem to lose virtually all of their formerly-intense garlic flavor. Then they're just cooked greens with a grassy texture and a chlorophyllic taste.

I know I could just let them alone and focus on bulb production from these plants. But having no-maintenance garlicky greens whenever I need them is a lot more useful to me than having EG cloves, although I'm looking forward to harvesting some off those too. So here's my question: what are some clever ways to prepare the greens that preserves their flavor and nutrition in a nice-texture way?

My first thought -- which I can't try until my basil is ready -- is to work some of them (raw) into a pesto.

What I'd like most is a trick for cooking them without killing their garlic flavor. But I assume that's impossible.

Anybody else out there who uses elephant garlic greens and has tips for them?
 
Leila Rich
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Got a photo?
I've never used elephant garlic greens, so I'm not able to comment from experience.
That never stopped me though...
Does it look like an enormous leek, with 'v''-shaped, blue-green leaves?
If not, I'd suggest it's one of the other things with 'garlic' in their name.
 
Dan Boone
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Yes it does look like a leek, although the way the leaves come together the stem at the ground is not quite as thick and round as a supermarket leek. The leaves "want" to fold into a V when cut, yes, but they are easily pressed flat. "Blue/green" sounds right but I have some of the common male red/green color vision deficiency; my color descriptions are unreliable, and I've been trained by a lifetime of mockery not to share them. A pic would be good, but I didn't think to take/post one here because mentally I had moved past the ID question (perhaps a mistake).

I have spent a LOT of time studying Allium pics and descriptions online, and I'm pretty sure (90%?) that I've got the ID right. Most of my remaining unsurety stems from the "origin story" for elephant garlic I found online. Supposedly its presence in commerce and common use in the United States stems from a chance discovery of it growing in an abandoned yard in California the late 1950s. From what little I know of the people whose yard the EG would have to have escaped from, the lady had a nice garden but she was fairly poor and no innovator. Could she have ordered some EG bulbs from a seed catalog prior to 1970 or so? Sure. But I find it pretty unlikely/remarkable. There'd have to be a story behind it, one that I'll never know.
 
Leila Rich
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Leila Rich wrote: Does it look like an enormous leek?

What am I on about?
I mean a scrawny leek!
I wonder if taking leaves stops the bulbs developing as well as they might?
I'm thinking since cooking the leaves renders them pointless,
I'd leave the EG to making their bulbs, and grow the mighty, indestructable garlic chive!
 
Bill Ramsey
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Location: SW Georgia, zone 8b
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The pesto idea can be the beginning of so many other recipes that I'd go with that, even before basil becomes available. My wife made a LOT of presto from our mustard greens and froze most of it for later. She puts it in everything!
 
Leila Rich
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Bill Ramsey wrote:The pesto idea can be the beginning of so many other recipes that I'd go with that, even before basil becomes available

Pesto-ish rocks.
I'll start a pesto thread
 
Dan Boone
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Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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The mustard greens idea was new to me as well. But I have a patch that was just starting to flower out in my woods in a bare patch that I had winter seeded.

So, I made a pesto today, with:

1) a bunch of mustard greens
2) a dozen long leaves from the elephant garlic
3) half a cup (or a bit more) of shelled pecans from our trees
4) a bit of applesauce for smoothness and liquid and sweet
5) the juice of one lemon
6) a couple of tablespoons of almond milk, as needed for texture while blending

It came out really good, with mustard fire and rich garlic flavors. If I wasn't avoiding refined oils, some olive oil would have made it evven richer and better. Or, more pecans.
 
Leila Rich
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Excellent! pesto is where it's at
Dan Boone wrote: I made a pesto... the juice of one lemon...
Just a heads-up with using acids in pesto: I've found it tends to make it lose its 'fresh' colour.
I haven't a clue about whether it's purely an aesthetic thing though.
Oh, I just realised that since you're avoiding oils, I imagine it would oxidise anyway.
Move on, nothing to see here
 
Dan Boone
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Yeah, there are some of the best features of pesto you just can't get to without olive oil or another high quality food oil.

I wanted some acid because I thought it might neutralize some of the sharpest edges of my raw garlic leaves. I think it did OK at that, and I ate the pesto too fast to notice loss of color. There's also the detail that I have a color vision deficiency, specifically with reds and greens -- so a bit of lost green I would probably never notice.
 
Leila Rich
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Dan Boone wrote: I have a color vision deficiency, specifically with reds and greens -- so a bit of lost green I would probably never notice.

Oh yeah, I forgot.
Always nice when a 'deficiency' is actually an asset
 
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