Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Garlic From Mars

I am worrying that my garlic in the vegetable garden will get frozen out over these last few weeks of winter. It’s been an unseasonably warm winter and they are sprouting far too early. There is real winter weather coming tonight and for the next few days and I fear for my garlic, but even more important to me…my garlic scapes. Need to go out and spread more straw over the little green sprouts. Outdoor garden chores in February? Here?

I kind of backed into growing garlic. Seven or eight years ago, I spotted these curly, green, other-worldly looking stalks at a local farm market. Did this stuff come from Mars? Had to know what they were. Was told they were garlic scapes, but the teenager manning the booth had no idea what to do with them. Of course I couldn’t leave them there. The rest is history. Soooo delicious, so many things to do with them. I HAD to grow them myself, which means I had to start growing garlic.

Very little information was around at the time as the scapes had not yet become the darlings of the local chef community. But at least I was able to find out that they only grew from hard necked garlic. For the first few of years, I’d just take myself to the market and buy whatever organic hard-necked garlic bulbs I could find and plant them in the fall. But the quality of the garlic bulbs was so different from crop to crop, that I knew I had to be a lot choosier to get my beloved scapes and still have fabulous garlic to store for the winter.

Last year, I wasn’t too happy with the garlic planted from the market. I don’t think it was actually the variety posted, and while it’s good tasting, it’s not keeping as well as other types. So, this year, I sucked it up and spent $$$ from a seed company to get just the variety I wanted, and now Mother Nature is threatening my crop. A message from the Universe that I should stick to the market garlic?  

In the spring, garlic looks pretty much like any other Allium in the garden, but then the fun starts.The scapes arise in early summer, and should be cut off so the garlic bulbs can get nice and plump before they get dug up and dried in mid to late summer. So you get two “crops” from one garlic planting. Around here garlic is best planted in the fall, as it has a pretty long growing season and most kinds like a good chill before they grow well. When they come up this year, I’ll post for sure, with some good pictures.

Green garlic scapes have a mild garlic taste, with a green, herby vegetal flavor that is utterly addicting.  If you get the scapes young and tender, they are wonderful in stir fries, or just added to vegetable mixtures. You can pickle them, add to pickle mixtures among lots of other deliciousness. My favorite use is just to puree them into some extra virgin olive oil to freeze for the winter. Plus, having the homegrown garlic bulbs let me add something that came from our own ground even on the coldest darkest days. Have to go run out and spread that straw so I can Save the Garlic (from Mars?)!

1 comment:

  1. Scapes are wonderful, aren't they? Even just steaming them then cooking gently in butter or olive oil is delicious.

    As for the garlic not keeping as well as other varieties, it's possible that it's the growing season and NOT the variety. Sometimes the weather just isn't on our side. I know so much of our squash rotted within days when it should have lasted months.