Posts Tagged ‘winter vegetables’

Garlic cloves shoved into a grid in the prepped bed

Garlic cloves shoved into a grid in the prepped bed

Two days ago, I planted half of the hardneck garlic I intend to put in this year. I had chosen a bed that hadn’t held any last season and yanked out the desiccated tomato plants (we picked our last green ones, which are turning red on the porch as I write, about five days ago) and the defunct peppers. Loosened the soil with a fork, weeded what needed to be weeded and planted the cloves that I’d chosen from among the largest bulbs I’d grown this past year.

Since I first learned about hardneck garlic from Colchester CSA manager and grower, Theresa Mycek, probably ten years ago, and started planting it in my own garden, I’ve come to depend on it. Hardneck garlic is terrific because it’s delicious, beautiful (those tall green tops with the curlicue scapes are such a nice visual counterpoint to the clumpy greens and beans), and like a culinary Double-mint gum: it’s two, two, two garlics in one.

The first one is the scape.

Scapes before clipping off arrowhead tip

Scapes before clipping off arrowhead tip

Wait; let me back up a little. First, sometime in late-October through November, you sit outside on a nice autumn day, separate garlic bulbs into cloves and plant the cloves about 8 inches apart – I plant in a grid, others do it in rows – in a prepared bed. Tuck them in gently beneath straw or some other light but effective mulch. In spring when the earth wakes up, the green shoots start coming through the mulch. In about May, you notice that the shoots have grown rather tall – knee high at least. In maybe mid-June, when the tall stiff shoots have continued to grow and are now curled around themselves a bit (i.e. turned into true scapes), you clip or break them off – it’s kinda like asparagus; you snap them where they are happy to be snapped – bring them in and cook them any one of a number of ways. We sometimes tempura them, or grill them for a great snack/ hors d’oeuvre/side dish, chop them into omelets, sauté them with other veggies, quick-pickle them in the fridge in a vinegar-and-herb-and-peppercorn bath or hang them by the kitchen door to ward off vampires. Whatever.

Hardneck bulbs - notice the central hard neck

Hardneck bulbs – notice the central hard neck


Siberian, Russian Giant, Music and Keith's Garlic cloves

Siberian, Russian Giant, Music and Keith’s Garlic cloves

In July-ish, when the green tops have browned and died back sufficiently, you dig – or pull, depending on how soft the bed is – the now cloved-up bulbs, wipe off the earth, and hang them up to dry. (I clump them in bunches of about 6-8 bulbs and hang them on the back porch). Then you use them. They go into the spaghetti sauce I can during tomato-and-pepper harvest, into chicken cacciatore (which is ONLY truly delicious when made in season with fresh garlic, fresh basil and fresh parsley plucked only a few minutes before chopping into the red-wine-soaked braising liquid), into the oven to spread on homemade bread with good olive oil, into salad dressings, well, you get the idea. But if you’ve planned right and the fates have shined on you and your little bed of hardneck garlic, you will also have enough to save, separate into cloves and plant to continue the whole cycle. The miracle of gardening and life perpetuating itself.

This year, I prepped one bed, but the second bed I wanted to plant was a knotted thicket of wire grass, wild aster, which has determined root systems, and the bind weed just to put a topping on it all. My husband volunteered to dig it all for me, bless him, so this afternoon I’m going to sit outside with the dog, separate six more garlic bulbs into cloves and plant that bed.


Scapes beginning in late April-May

When I’m in prayer position on my knees stuffing the cloves – or anything for that matter – into the ground, I think about a little garden plaque a friend gave me years ago that said: Who plants a seed beneath the sod and waits to see believes in God. It’s an acknowledgement that while we can become really good gardeners, we are all at the mercy of so many other elements in life beyond our own control. But I have faith. And I keep on planting.


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Arugula, roasted beets and feta

Don’t get me wrong: I love rich, once-a-year holiday foods. But for balance in both taste and texture – to say nothing of waistline — I crave salads. We’re not talkin’ lettuce and tomato at this time of year though. We’re talkin’ winter vegetables — shredded, roasted, sautéed, and raw.

There are plenty of options.  For example, you can tweak classic summer slaw with new combinations: shredded cabbage (red or white or both), beets, and broccoli stems; or turnip, carrot, and daikon radish; or rutabaga, jicama, and spaghetti squash. Add chopped apple, pineapple, or sliced clementines for a little tart sweetness, or pickled hot peppers for heat, season with abandon, and dress with a mustard vinaigrette. Classic Waldorf salad is another retro staple that cries out for new variations: Turnip, celery and apple tossed with yogurt-and-fig-vinegar dressing with poppy seed; radish, sprouts, and pear with white-wine-and-orange-juice vinaigrette with coriander. Add nuts, cheese, and dried cherries, blueberries or raisins to any of the above and you’ve got lunch. Try raw Broccoli Salad with scallion, toasted walnuts and dried cranberries dressed with a creamy mix of half plain yogurt/half mayo thinned with a little red wine vinegar, or Warm Red Cabbage Salad. Sautee some chopped red cabbage in olive oil for about five minutes, splash in some cider or balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add some crushed garlic and sauté another three minutes.  Turn into a salad bowl, and add a chopped apple, fresh parsley, toasted pine nuts, and crumbled goat cheese or gorgonzola. Drizzle with extra vinegar and oil.

Roasted vegetable salads are terrific this time of year too; the oven’s warmth is welcome, and what’s cookin’ makes the house smell great.  You can roast beets, turnips, carrots, parsnip, winter squash, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, eggplant, (which is great dressed and served room temp with sautéed mushrooms, scallions, and shaved parmesan) and more.

One of our favorites is French lentil salad with roasted veggies on arugula.  Peel and chop some winter squash  or some carrots and parsnips. Toss with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, a bare dusting of sugar, and whatever seasonings strike your fancy — smoked paprika and chili powder are nice. Slow roast on a pan at 325F for 20-30 minutes until just tender and brown-edged. Meanwhile, cook lentils in broth until barely tender. Drain. While still warm, season them with salt and pepper, some chopped garlic and a splash each of red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. Arrange all on a plate with fresh arugula and a little crumbled goat cheese, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil just before serving.  Unlike summer salads, most winter salads stay good in the frig for days so you can make a bunch on Sunday and eat ‘em all week.





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