Garlic leaves, also known as garlic greens, are the tender green leaves that sprout from the garlic bulb. They have a mild garlic flavor and can be eaten fresh or cooked. But can you actually eat garlic leaves? Let’s find out.
Yes, garlic leaves are edible and can be consumed in several ways. The green leaves have a milder flavor compared to the garlic bulb and are perfectly safe to eat when cooked or raw.
Are garlic leaves poisonous?
No, garlic leaves are not poisonous and can be safely consumed. In fact, they have some great nutritional benefits and have been used for centuries in cuisines around the world. Some people may have concerns over potential toxicity from garlic leaves, but there is no evidence to suggest they pose any harm when eaten in normal food amounts.
Benefits of eating garlic leaves
Here are some of the main benefits of consuming garlic leaves:
- Rich in vitamins and minerals – Garlic leaves contain decent amounts of vitamins A, C, and K as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron.
- High in antioxidants – Research shows garlic leaves have powerful antioxidant properties from phytochemicals that can help protect cells from damage.
- Natural antimicrobial effects – Compounds like allicin found in garlic leaves have natural antibacterial and antifungal effects that support immune health.
- Cardiovascular benefits – Some studies indicate garlic leaf extracts can help improve cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
- Anticancer potential – Lab studies show garlic leaves have compounds like diallyl disulfide that may block cancer cell growth and inhibit tumor formation.
So in moderation, adding garlic leaves to your diet can provide excellent nutrition and health boosting plant compounds.
Nutrition facts of garlic leaves
Garlic leaves contain a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and bioactive plant compounds. Here is an overview of the main nutrients found in raw garlic leaves (per 100g):
As you can see, garlic leaves provide a nutritious boost of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber with minimal calories and carbs.
What do garlic leaves taste like?
Garlic leaves have a green, grassy flavor that is much milder than fully developed garlic bulbs. The taste is somewhat comparable to chives or the green parts of scallions and leeks. Raw garlic leaves add a light garlicky essence to dishes without being overpowering. When cooked, the leaves develop a more concentrated and sweeter garlic taste.
Are garlic leaves spicy?
No, garlic leaves do not have a spicy or hot taste. They provide just hints of garlic’s pungent flavor without the same intensity you get from garlic cloves. This makes them easy to eat raw in salads or as garnish without burning your mouth. However, garlic leaves can provide a warming sensation when eaten in larger quantities.
Can you eat raw garlic leaves?
Yes, garlic leaves are perfectly safe to consume raw. Their mild taste makes them an excellent addition to fresh salads, sandwiches, wraps, and more. You can chop them up and toss raw garlic leaves into any dish that calls for a light garlicky kick. Some people even juice or blend up raw garlic leaves as a nutritious addition to green smoothies. As with any raw produce, be sure to rinse garlic leaves well before eating.
How to cook with garlic leaves
Garlic leaves become much more aromatic and develop a sweet garlic flavor when cooked. They can be cooked in a variety of ways:
- Sauteing: Quickly cooking the leaves in olive oil or butter to use as a garnish or mix into other dishes.
- Stir-frying: Adding chopped leaves to Asian stir-fry dishes along with other veggies.
- Steaming: Lightly steaming the leaves as a warm side dish.
- Braising: Gently cooking the leaves in a small amount of liquid like broth.
- Roasting: Roasting chopped garlic leaves tossed with olive oil to bring out rich flavors.
- Boiling: Quickly boiling leaves for 1-2 minutes then using in soups or stews.
Experiment with using young garlic leaves in any savory recipe that you want to add subtle garlic notes to. They pair particularly well with classic garlic flavor partners like tomatoes, eggs, chicken, fish, and olive oil.
What does garlic leaf pesto taste like?
Garlic leaves can be used to make a unique leafy green pesto. To make garlic leaf pesto, blend garlic leaves with olive oil, Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, pine nuts or walnuts, salt and pepper. The pesto has an earthy, nutty garlic flavor that is less pungent than regular basil or garlic scape pesto. Use it on pasta, bruschetta, meat, fish or roasted veggies.
Can you use garlic leaves for pesto?
Yes, garlic leaves work wonderfully in pesto recipes. Simply use them in place of traditional basil or other leafy herbs. The leaves contain oils that emulsify into the pesto just like basil does. Garlic leaf pesto has a milder garlic punch than scape or clove versions. The grassy flavor pairs deliciously with Parmesan, olive oil, nuts and garlic itself.
Garlic Leaf Pesto Recipe
Try this easy homemade garlic leaf pesto.
- 2 cups fresh garlic leaves, packed
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup walnuts or pine nuts
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- Wash and dry garlic leaves well.
- Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender.
- Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.
- Add more olive oil if too thick.
- Season with more salt and pepper if desired.
- Store refrigerated for 5-7 days or freeze for longer storage.
You now have a delicious and vibrant garlic leaf pesto to use in a multitude of recipes!
What recipes use garlic leaves?
Here are some tasty ways to use garlic leaves in recipes:
- Pestos: Blend into nutty pesto sauces for pasta, bread, meats and veggies.
- Dips: Chop and mix into hummus, tzatziki or olive tapenades.
- Salads: Toss chopped raw leaves into green, potato, pasta or grain salads.
- Sandwiches: Mix leaves into tuna salad, egg salad or aioli as a sandwich spread.
- Soups: Add leaves to vegetable, chicken noodle or minestrone soups.
- Stir fries: Quickly stir-fry leaves with Asian veggies, shrimp or chicken.
- Eggs: Fold sauteed leaves into scrambled eggs or omelets.
- Pizza: Scatter roasted garlic leaves over pizza as a tasty topping.
Get creative with adding garlic leaf flavor to your favorite recipes!
Should garlic leaves be cut off?
It is not necessary to cut off garlic leaves as they grow. Leaving the green leaves intact can actually benefit the bulb development. The leaves photosynthesize sunlight and send energy to the underground cloves, helping them grow larger. However, once the bulbs are matured and harvested, the leaves are perfectly edible.
Can you cut garlic leaves while growing?
You can trim some garlic leaf tips while the plant is growing to use for cooking. However, avoid cutting more than 1/3 of the leaves at a time so as not to shock the plant. Cutting all the leaves too early can reduce bulb size. The best practice is to leave most leaves intact until ready to pull the full bulbs for long term storage, then harvest leaves as desired.
Do you cut garlic leaves or stems?
If garlic is growing in bunches, you can cut some of the leafy green stems for culinary use without harming the bulb development. Avoid cutting too close to the bulbs. The lowest leaves should remain to nourish the underground cloves. Once bulbs are cured and stored after harvest, you can cut the stems and leaves to use in recipes.
Can you freeze garlic leaves?
Yes, garlic leaves freeze very well for long term storage. To freeze:
- Rinse and pat dry fresh garlic leaf bunches.
- Chop leaves into smaller pieces if desired.
- Lay in single layer on baking sheet and freeze solid.
- Transfer to airtight freezer bags or containers.
- Freeze for up to 6 months.
Frozen leaves maintain their flavor and can be used straight from frozen in cooked dishes. Let thaw before using raw.
Can you dehydrate garlic leaves?
Drying or dehydrating is another excellent way to preserve garlic leaves. Follow these steps:
- Wash garlic leaves and pat very dry.
- Lay leaves in single layer on dehydrator trays.
- Dehydrate at 95°F to 115°F for 4 to 8 hours until crispy.
- Store dried leaves in an airtight container for up to 1 year.
Rehydrate dried leaves in water before using in recipes. Crush them to a powder for seasoning.
Garlic leaves offer a tasty way to reap the benefits of garlic’s flavor and nutrition in a milder form. They are completely edible and can be used raw or cooked in pestos, salads, soups, stir fries and more dishes. Save some garlic leaves next time you harvest bulbs or pick them up fresh at the farmers market. Incorporate the leaves into your recipes to add a nutritious dose of garlicky goodness.