Cook This Now: All in with Alliums

By Michele T. RSS Wed, March 30, 2016

By Lisa Kelly of The Food Trust

After a long winter, we all look forward to the first signs of spring at local markets. Here in Philadelphia, this is the time of year when spring favorites begin to sprout up at farm stands. Some of the earliest arrivals at spring markets are members of the allium family, including spring onions, chives, spring garlic, and ramps. Alliums contain vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron, as well as carotenoids, which support eye health.

Read on to find out more about each!

Spring Onions
Spring onions begin to arrive at market in March, adding a fresh pop of green and white (or purple!) to vendors’ tables. They look very similar to scallions and have small, defined bulbs at the bottom. Spring onions are milder than more mature, regular onions but are more pungent than their scallion cousins.

Spring onions can be used in the same way as regular onions, though they are excellent candidates for pickling. When pickled, they add brightness to sandwiches, tacos, and salads. Check out this recipe for Pickled Spring Onions from local canning expert Marisa McClellan (via Serious Eats).

Grilled spring onions are only one of many reasons to get back in the grilling habit this time of year. When grilled, spring onions become soft and their sweetness intensifies. Try grilling them as part of this spring’s first cookout! has a simple Grilled Spring Onion recipe.

Although chives can be found year round at supermarkets, springtime is when you can find them locally, along with their gorgeous purple flowers attached. The flowers look like awesome firework explosions at the top of the green-chive stems. Their flavor is light, oniony, and fresh. And the flowers are edible! 

If your bunch of chives still has the flowers attached, try plucking the petals from the stem and adding some color to this Chive Goat Cheese Spread from Epicurious.

Another fun use for the blossoms is this Chive Blossom Vinegar (also from Marisa McClellan), which would be great for drizzling over salads or as a dip for grilled spiced meats.

Not to be forgotten, the chive stems make a lovely colorful addition to these savory and slightly spicy Cheddar-Chive Corn Muffins from Food & Wine.

Spring Garlic
Spring garlic (also known as green garlic) is the immature bulb and stalk of regular garlic. Spring garlic differs from regular garlic in that it’s only available at markets from March through May; the stalk is edible; its bulbs are juicier; and its flavor is lighter, less intense, and nuttier than typical garlic.  

Try spring garlic in this fresh springtime Green Garlic, Chive, and Red Pepper Frittata (why not plan a whole brunch around it?) from the New York Times.

And this Spaghetti and Green Garlic recipe by Alice Waters (via Serious Eats) only calls for six ingredients and truly highlights the garlic’s fresh flavor.

These elusive alliums are simultaneously difficult to find, trendy, easy to work with, and downright delicious. Ramps, a variety of wild leek, are typically foraged from forests all up and down the East coast. When they hit the stands at markets, they typically sell out almost immediately. Professional chefs and home cooks love ramps for their fresh, potent, oniony flavor. When buying ramps, look for bright, non-wilted leaves. Ramps should be used within a few days of harvest. Check out these recipes for these highly seasonal alliums!

Try Serious Eats’ Fried Eggs with Bacon and Ramps recipe as an easy yet delicious start to your day.

Looking to extend the shelf life of your ramps? Look no further than this Pickled Ramps recipe from Saveur. Pro tip: Pickled ramps make an excellent topping for burgers!

Finally, this Ramp Pesto from Food52 is fantastic when tossed with pasta or baked tofu, spread on sandwiches, dolloped onto meat, or stirred into risotto.

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Now I'm hungry! Thanks for the great info. I'm curious though - What's the difference between spring onions and scallions? And are they the same as green onions? Thanks!
Sarah S. - Philadelphia
Thursday, March 31, 2016