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If you are of a certain age, over about 40 or 45 perhaps, you may remember a time when it was not easy to buy fresh garlic. Good supermarkets offered it, packed in yellow cardboard boxes with plastic windows that revealed two small, sad bulbs inside. It would be many years before piles of garlic bulbs were just about everywhere.

Now we have so much garlic that it can be hard to keep up, especially during the spring when green garlic, garlic scapes and fresh garlic cycle through in rapid succession.

The season for green garlic and garlic scapes is winding down and it won’t be long before fresh garlic is just a memory, too, until next year. But there is a bit of time. Farmers market vendors have piles of fresh garlic on their tables.

What is fresh garlic, exactly?

When a garlic bulb is first harvested, its outer skin is soft and pliable, the membrane that separates cloves is moist, and the cloves themselves are quite juicy. It’s got a fair amount of garlic’s traditional heat but very little of the earthy quality it takes on as it cures.

It cooks more quickly, because of all the water it contains. Any garlic will quickly give up its moisture to the atmosphere so when you have fresh garlic, it is a good idea to use it right away and not forget about it in your pantry.

Green garlic is the first garlic of the year that we enjoy. It is garlic before the bulb begins to form and resembles scallions, though it is easy to tell them apart: Scallions have thin hollow stalks; garlic stalks are flat.

A garlic scape is the flower stalk produced by hardneck garlics. Left on the plant, the scape will eventually form a bulb that can be planted, but this results in the plant drawing nutrients from the main bulb. Most people who grow garlic for the bulb typically cut off the scapes. They were once tossed onto the compost but are now devoured wherever garlic is grown. You’ll find them at local farmers markets.

The final stage of garlic before it is cured for aging is fresh garlic, a stage that is often overlooked because its name is misunderstand. “Fresh garlic” means, to most of us, whatever you buy in the produce section of a market or at a farmers market.

But the garlic that is sold in markets year round has been cured, which is to say, aged in a cool, dry area, which is what gives it its shelf life. Fresh garlic is garlic that has not gone through this process, and it is absolutely delicious.

For other fresh garlic recipes, visit “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

Sopa de Ajo is a classic soup found throughout much of Spain. There are countless variations but the basics — garlic, eggs, bread — are essentially the same. Some versions are light and make a great first course. This one is both full-flavored and filling, perfect for dinner on a warm summer night when we still have fresh young garlic. You can make the soup with cured garlic at any time of year but it will have a deeper, huskier flavor than this one.

Sopa de Ajo con Chorizo

Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups fresh young garlic cloves, peeled

8 ounces bulk (not in casings) chorizo

1 medium red ripe tomato, peeled, seeded and minced

1 teaspoon hot or smoked Spanish paprika

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

— Kosher salt

6 cups homemade chicken stock

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

— Black pepper in a mill

8 thick slices of sourdough hearth bread

4 fresh garlic cloves, cut in half crosswise

4 large farm eggs

4 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Pour the olive oil into a wide deep pan, such as an All-Clad saucier and set it over low heat. Add the garlic cloves and sweat them very slowly, so that they soften without picking up any color; it will take about 20 to 30 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic to a bowl.

Turn the heat to medium high, add the chorizo, and cook until it loses its raw look, using a fork to break it up all the while. Add the tomato, paprika and vinegar, season with salt, and pour in the stock, Simmer gently for 15 minutes, so that the flavors mingle.

Meanwhile, use a fork to mash the garlic into a smooth puree. Add the thyme leaves, season with salt and add several turns of black pepper. Set aside.

Toast the bread until it is golden brown. Rub half a clove of garlic over one side of each piece of bread, pressing to release the garlic juices into the bread. Set aside and cover with a tea towel.

Carefully break an egg into a small bowl, and tip it into the soup; continue until all the eggs have been added, placing them as far from each other as possible. Cook for 2 minutes and remove from the heat.

While the eggs cook, put one piece of bread into each of four soup bowls or plates. Use a slotted spoon to set an egg in each bowl, setting it on top of the egg.

Taste the soup, correct for salt and pepper, if needed, ladle over the eggs, and scatter the parsley on top. Add a second slice of bread to each bowl and enjoy right away.

This is an excellent rub for all kinds of meats and many vegetables. It can be made year round but has a unique bright quality when made during fresh garlic’s brief season.

Fresh Garlic Rub

Makes about 1/3 cup, easily doubled

2 garlic bulbs, cloves separated and peeled

— Kosher salt

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

— Black pepper in a mill

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Put the garlic cloves into a large mortar such as a suribachi, sprinkle it lightly with salt, and use a wooden pestle to pound it into a paste. When it is nearly smooth, add the thyme leaves and incorporate them into the mixture. Taste, correct for salt, add several turns of black pepper and stir in the olive oil.

Use right away or store in a glass jar for a day or two.

Suggested uses:

Rub over leg of lamb, rack of lamb, rack of goat or similar meats before roasting.

Brush over grilled chicken during the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking.

Brush over grilled eggplant, zucchini, or grilled tomatoes immediately after pulling them off the heat.

Brush over whole fish before roasting.

Stir a tablespoon or so into pan gravy, stews, sauces or soups, just before serving.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date and has contributed to several books about garlic. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

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