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It’s Green Garlic Season!

It’s Green Garlic Season!

Eggs in Mumbai

Living in Mumbai, I miss winters. The only way I feel close to my favorite season is by visiting the vegetable market, where the greens call out to me from carts and baskets. Apart from the usual suspects like spinach, mustard, fenugreek, and chenopodium, I love the green garlic that’s available for only a few weeks.

Green garlic is young garlic, harvested before the cloves begin to mature. It looks like a clove of garlic with long, bright green stalk and a bunch of white hair on top. Another variation, which looks more like a green onion, is harvested before the plant itself starts to mature. I grew up eating the latter, but the former is something I came across in Mumbai, with a flavor close to mature garlic, but milder. It’s used widely by various communities in western India.

One of the most famous dishes featuring green garlic is Gujarati undhiyu: a slow-cooked dish with winter vegetables. The Sindhis wait the entire year for this seasonal crop to make their favorite doda: a flour paratha with chopped green garlic in it. The north has its own recipes: in the Garhwal region of Uttaranchal, a broth made with sesame is seasoned with lehsun ka namak: dry chutney made with salt, green garlic, and green chillies.

The Bohris and Parsis also love their green garlic. Bohris make lasan baida keema: keema (mutton mince) covered with chopped green garlic with eggs cracked over it and cooked slowly. The Parsi dish is similar, but skips the keema.

One winter morning, my friends Rhea and Kurush Dalal invited me for breakfast to celebrate this winter dish. Over a cup of hot coffee, I got a lecture (since Kurush is also a teacher) about the importance of eggs in Parsi cooking. Eeda—eggs—are essential to Parsi breakfast, and can be combined with anything. There is batata par eedu, eggs cooked over fried potatoes; salli par eedu, eggs fried over deep-fried potato straws; and keema par eedu, eggs fried over mutton mince. In winter, leela lasan, leelo kando ne kothmir per eeda, eggs cooked on a bed of green garlic, green onions, and green coriander, is a breakfast staple.

The dish is fairly simple to make. As I stood around being the kitchen elf, Kurush stir-fried and chopped green garlic, green onions, and coriander in a little oil. He then made small depressions on the bed of greens with the back of a spoon and cracked eggs in each one. The eggs were cooked until the whites were white and the yolk was perfectly runny. Seasoned with just a bit of salt and red chili powder, the dish had robust flavors of the greens, with a hint of garlic. Over our second round of coffee, we wiped the pan clean with slices of bread and homemade bacon jam.

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