How would you cook without onions and garlic? Probably not very well. Adding the earthy, pungent sweetness of edible bulbs like onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives is a simple way to transform nearly any dish into a wonder. These bodacious bulbs are high in beneficial sulfur-containing compounds that give them their distinctive flavor, aroma, and, in some cases, tear-jerking powers.
Boost the flavor of your early spring menu and reap abundant health rewards with these bulb-forward recipes.
Ready to level up? Try aged garlic extract
Onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives are members of the Allium genus. Research suggests that consuming alliums and their bioactive sulfur compounds, such as allicin in garlic, may help ward off certain cancers and even heart disease. These plant substances possess strong antioxidant activity to help improve certain health measures—think lowering inflammation in the body and stimulating the immune system.
As with your favorite pair of jeans, garlic seems to get better with age. Aged garlic extract (AGE) is made by soaking raw garlic in purified water or alcohol and aging it at room temperature for a period of time. In doing so, it’s thought that certain compounds in the garlic cloves, such as s-allylcysteine (SAC), become even more active.
Studies suggest there are health benefits to including AGE in your supplement routine, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.
For many gardeners and farmers market aficionados, the following ultra-seasonal alliums are a hallmark of spring and the warmer days ahead. Get ’em when you can.
These are the deep-green curly shoots that grow from hardneck garlic bulb varieties. They are usually snipped off before the underground bulbs are harvested. Similar to raw asparagus in texture, garlic scapes have a more subtle flavor than garlic bulbs and are marvelous finely chopped and added to homemade pesto, dressings, or ground meat when making burgers.
Come springtime, foodies rave about ramps (also called wild leeks), which are typically foraged from forests and have a small white bulb, purple-tinged stalks, and onion-scented green foliage. All parts are edible. Grill them whole and drizzle with a herby olive oil, add them to scrambled eggs or frittata, or use all the parts to make vibrant pesto. Pickled ramps are a stunning condiment for salads and meats.
Bees shouldn’t be the only ones fond of blossoming chive tops. Purple-pink chive flowers are edible and have a delicate onion flavor. A generous sprinkle can brighten up the taste and look of pasta, scrambled eggs, potato salad, and soups. Alternatively, you can stuff several whole chive blossoms in a jar, top with white wine vinegar, and let steep for a couple weeks for a rosy infused vinegar.
Also called spring garlic, this is simply immature garlic with flattish green leaves, a white bulb, and a purple tint on the stalk. It usually hails from softneck garlic varieties. Green garlic adds a fresh, delicate garlicky taste to any dish in which you would normally use regular garlic, including dips, sauces, and soups. Green garlic’s flavor is sharper when eaten raw, but mellows when cooked.