Spring onions and garlic have arrived at the farmers market. Visit your market's veggie growers for fresh spring onions and garlic.

Chef Mario of Cookin' the Market, Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association, says, "I'm not a big fan of dishes that use way too much garlic in them. It tends to overpower other flavors. But spring garlic has a milder and sweeter taste, yet still retains that distinctive garlic flavor.

"Spring garlic is simply garlic that's pulled young and before it can form much of a bulb. It looks like a slightly overgrown scallion or green onion."

He gathered the troops at the PCFMA offices a few weeks ago and showed us how to use this wonderful veggie so we can now inform farmers market shoppers how to prepare it.

Picked fresh from our office garden, he made an asparagus garlic pasta that you're sure to enjoy. The entire plant is deliciously edible, roots to tip! Chop or slice and use it just like you would green onions or garlic.

Just remember that it has a milder flavor. Green garlic complements everything -- fish, fowl, or vegetables. You can use it raw in salad dressings or in mashed potatoes or other veggie side dishes. It makes great sauces, too!

Pasta with Green Garlic Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons minced green garlic (white and light green parts only)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

1 pound fresh pasta

1 pound asparagus (about 1 bunch), woody ends shaved and trimmed thinly sliced on the bias

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add the green garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the green garlic is tender but not browned, about 20 minutes.

Add the cream and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer until the green garlic is completely tender and the flavors have infused the cream, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside.

Add the pasta and vegetables to the boiling water. Boil, stirring occasionally, until asparagus are tender and the pasta is cooked all the way through, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and asparagus, return them to the pot. Add the reserved cream sauce and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss to coat the pasta and asparagus, adding more pasta water by the tablespoonful as needed to reach the desired consistency.

Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed; serve immediately.

-- Recipe: Chef Mario Hernandez, PCFMA

Farmers markets are open rain or shine.

  • In Martinez, the Sunday market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. year-round, and the Friday seasonal market is from 4 to 8 p.m. May 16-Sept. 12, both at Main and Estudillo streets.

  • The Pleasant Hill seasonal farmers market is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, May 3-Nov. 15, on Gregory Lane at Trelany Road.

    Visit www.pcfma.com or call 800-949-FARM (800-949-3276).

    The Time is Ripe is a monthly column written by Debra Morris, promotions coordinator for the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association. Contact her at debramorris@pcfma.com.