It’s spring and our world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful, at last. The lettuce plants in my garden are pushing out leaf after crisp-frilled leaf for joy of this cool, cloudy, rainy weather. The sugar-snap peas are climbing the trellis, and a new crop of Bright Lights chard is adding its brilliant rainbow colors to the surrounding greens in every shade from emerald to chartreuse.
Much of the charm of the spring garden lies in its promise, in the anticipation of delicate, de-lovely tastes to come. The pink-and-white apple blossoms promise apple pies come autumn; the green leaves crowning the hills of the potato plants mark the treasure of new potatoes soon to be discovered below. But one short-season treat is ready right now.
Green garlic is our very particular, very Nor-Cal herald of spring, much as ramps (also a member of the allium family, along with onions, shallots, and leeks) are in the Northeast. But unlike ramps, a wild plant that must be foraged from the spring woods, green garlic is a domestic, farmable crop, common at farmers’ markets in springtime. It’s nothing more than the early shoots of the garlic plant, harvested before the familiar cloven bulb has formed at the base. Right now, the tall, leafy shoots are still pale green, with a texture somewhere between scallion and lemongrass. The scent is garlicky but the flavor is mild, making it a perfect addition to pizzas, pastas, and egg dishes. Trim off the roots and the top few inches of leaf, then slice and use much like a tougher, more pungent scallion.
And speaking of eggs, spring’s tender new greens, both domestic and wild, are a lovely complement to eggs any way. Chopped and sautéed in butter, spinach makes a fine nest for a poached duck egg. Finely sliced asparagus, a bit of poached or smoked salmon and some fresh ricotta, a lovely omelet filling. Nettles, steamed in a splash of water until just wilted (and no longer sting-able), can be drained, squeezed of any excess water, chopped finely and stirred into a scramble.
Chard works well this way too, destemmed, torn up, and melted in butter with a couple of chopped stalks of green garlic. Season with salt, pepper, and a grating of fresh nutmeg. Whisk up a few eggs and add them to the greens in the pan. Scramble over medium heat until not quite done, then dot the eggs with crumbled fresh goat cheese or sheep’s milk feta.
As you can see from the picture the effect is more greens with eggs than green eggs, but this is a good thing. I pureed my raw eggs and greens in a blender once, just to see if I could make really green eggs, and while the answer was yes, the resulting Emerald City scramble was just a little too Astroturf-y for breakfast.
As anyone who’s ever roasted a leg of lamb knows, garlic is lamb’s natural complement, and green garlic makes a splendid partner for ground lamb. To go with my chard-n-eggs on a recent morning, I made a quick batch of homemade lamb patties, shaped like breakfast-sausage patties but made like meatballs. Bread crumbs, a splash of milk and an egg yolk help hold the meat together; chopped herbs and green garlic add a little sparkle and ring the breakfast-sausage (rather than burger) chimes.
As with any ground meat, it’s wise to know your source, both rancher and butcher. Look for meat that’s pleasantly fatty; very lean meat can produce a too-dry patty, as can overworking the meat when you’re blending in the breadcrumbs and herbs.
I do so like
green eggs and lamb!
Lamb Breakfast Patties
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5-8 minutes
Total Time: 15-18 minutes
Yield: 6 2-inch patties
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tbsp milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 lb ground lamb
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 stalk green garlic, trimmed and minced
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp minced fresh oregano
1/2 tsp crumbled fresh thyme or sage
1 tsp minced fresh mint or parsley
Olive oil for frying
1. Soak bread crumbs in milk for 5 minutes. Stir in egg yolk, then gently mix in ground lamb.
2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, green garlic, and fresh herbs. Mix gently.
3. In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, lightly film skillet with olive oil. Shape meat mixture into 6 golf-ball sized balls, then flatten into patties.
4. Cook patties until well-browned on first side, then flip over and continue cooking until just slightly pink in the center, 5-8 minutes total. Drain off extra fat as necessary. Serve hot with green eggs.