Alliums (onions, shallots, garlic, leeks, scallions, chives, etc) are good for us.
They contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
They offer cancer protection, anti-inflammatory benefits and support for bone and connective tissues.
They add flavor and interest to savory foods.
They can be hot, sweet or pungent…. Sometimes all three depending on cooking method.
Speaking of which – can you imagine cooking without them?
Leeks are coming to an end soon; green garlic is starting to appear in the markets; as the soil warms it’s time to plant the scallions, shallots and onions; chives and garlic chives are coming up in the herb garden.
Onion: I’ll be brief on this as most people are very familiar with onions, but if you want more information check All About Onions. Onions come in many varieties: some are sweet, some are meant for storage, some for eating raw, some are white, some are red…. They’re mostly round.
Green onion: A very young onion of any variety picked before the bulb forms. Can be red or white.
Spring onion: A green onion that is a bit more mature with the beginnings of a bulb. Can be red or white.
Scallion: A straight-sided onion that is slightly milder than a green onion.
Note: The terms green onion, spring onion and scallion are often used interchangeably. I checked all of my reference books (McGee, Larousse, Joy of Cooking, Julia Child and many more) and I could find nothing definitive. Some stated that the three names described the same allium; some described it as I have. Personal experience says that a spring onion is larger and more mature than a green onion. I have no personal experience to say how or if a scallion is different from a green onion.
Shallot: Smaller and milder than an onion, with a more complex flavor. Shallots grow in bulbs of multiple cloves like garlic; planted (just stick them in the ground) in early summer and harvested in late summer. Shallots are often served as a vegetable as well as in sauces
Leek: They look like a giant green onion but have a milder flavor. Leeks are planted in summer and harvested the following winter and spring. They are often a primary ingredient in soups (Vichyssoise, Cock-a-Leekie) and as a vegetable as well as in sauces.
Green garlic: Garlic harvested before the bulb and cloves form. It looks like a green onion but with flatter tops, The entire plant, white and green, is edible, with a mild garlic flavor.
Garlic scapes: The immature flower stem of some types of garlic…. I’m not familiar with these.
Chives: A perennial herb with a mild onion taste. The leaves are long and tubular.
Garlic chives: (pictured) Also a perennial herbs, aka Chinese chives, similar to regular chives but with flat leaves and a mild garlic flavor.
Both chives and garlic chives are the first herbs up in the spring and complement other spring favorites such as asparagus and new potatoes.
Here are a few ideas to use the lovely alliums.
Roasted New Potatoes with Chives
Creamy Risotto with Veal and Leeks
Coq au Vin Blanc, with Shallots and Morels
And one last late winter / early spring salad
Warm Leek and Avocado Salad
2 large leeks
3 cups chicken stock
1 small, ripe avocado
6 – 7 olives, any type: green, black, kalamata
2 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1 tbs apple Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
3 tbs good olive oil
Cut root end off leeks. Cut tops leaving 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7.5cm) of pale green. You should have 6 – 7 inches (15 – 17.5cm) of leek. Cut leeks in half the long way and discard outer leaves. Rinse under cool running water fanning the layers a bit to get out any possible sand. Heat chicken stock in large skillet to a simmer. Lay leeks in a row, cut side down, in the simmering broth. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. The broth should cover the leeks completely; if not, add water.
Cut the avocado in half, remove pit. Remove avocado halves from skin and slice. Roughly chop olives. Make vinaigrette.
To finish: Spoon a bit of vinaigrette into the center of 2 plates. Uncover and remove leeks with a tongs, draining and trying to keep them together. Lay leeks on the vinaigrette. Arrange avocado slices to one side of leeks. Drizzle remaining vinaigrette around the edges of the leeks and over the avocado. Sprinkle with olives and serve. Reserve chicken stock for other use – it can also be frozen
Whisk together mustard, herbs and vinegar. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly. Vinaigrette will be thick and creamy.
Lastly, my absolute favorite way to eat green garlic….
Perfect Scrambled Eggs with Green Garlic
Yes, a bit of emphasis on the green garlic – but, with luck, it will soon be at a market stall near you!