I think it is finally safe to say (bang on wood) that the weather has turned. There are still a few random snow piles, desperately hanging on for dear life, but the garlic patch is clearly visible. I’ve even managed to duck out of work an hour early a few nights this week and sneak off to the garden. It’s my favorite time there – when the light is all slanty and rich. I shake myself a small vodka gimlet, plunk in 3 hazelnuts, and pick out a few seed packets for the evening’s planting. My kind of happy hour.
Traditionally my sugar snap pea crop is in the ground no later than Tax Day. They almost always get a little snow at some point, but that’s the nice thing about peas – they don’t mind. I’ve never planted peas so late, but I finally got two rows in on Tuesday evening. It might be a lost cause if the weather turns too hot, too fast. But after mulling it over for about a half a second, I decided it’s worth the gamble.
I’m anxious to see how the early summer plays out. Will things catch up, or should I resign myself to an agonizing month delay on spring produce? Either way, I refuse to be deterred. I’ve already declared this the year of the garden. Last spring I was too tied up with finishing and moving into a new house to really put much attention into the garden. And the year before that I was on couch probation – recovering from eye surgery. Those gardens still produced food, but they were sorely lacking in character. This year though, I am back on my game. I already have black mulch down, pre warming the hot pepper bed.
And then there is the question of the garlic. When we left off last fall, I was terribly nervous about the effects of what I think was a Phytoplasma bacteria outbreak. On the chance that I planted any infected seed, I’m ready with floating row covers to keep different varieties isolated and protected from the leaf hoppers that transmit the bacteria. So far there is not a leaf hopper in sight. But that hardly matters. There is barely garlic in sight. Here’s a shot of the Aglio Rossa taken on May 15 this year.
I’ve been pulling back mulch, doling out encouragement and assuring the new sprouts that it doesn’t matter that they’re light years behind where last year’s May crop was. Maybe they’re just trying to mess with the leaf hoppers.
Nevertheless, I’m planning on a later than nornal harvest this season. Luckily our garlic stores are still holding out. The raw cloves are definitely picking up heat, and there are a few green sprouts to remove, but it still cooks up just fine. Lately though I’ve been on an infused garlic oil kick. It’s a great way to add a nice warm garlic flavor to grains, salads, and lightly steamed vegetables. It takes out any heat or bitterness, leaving only a subtle, smooth garlic flavor.
I picked up this tip from the “prep school” section at the back of a Bon Appétite and it’s a trick that has stuck with me. For maximum flavor let the cloves get almost black (but not burnt) before removing them from the oil.
4-5 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
Peel the garlic and crush each clove with the blade of a knife. Heat the oil over low-medium heat and cook the garlic cloves, turning occasionally until the are dark brown to black (about 8 – 10 minutes). Remove and discard garlic, store any unused oil in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.