Monday, March 2, 2009
And where the Devil stepped onion grew from one foot print and the other, garlic...
I've failed. I made a New Year's resolution and kept it private so no one would know my shame but the truth must come out. My resolution was to write four blog entries a month. Crazy, right?
Luckily my birthday is in February, so I always get a chance to renew resolutions and start over for a new year, a personal new year. And I hereby renew. Right now I'm sitting on the couch watching BCAT and finishing off the better part of a bottle of red wine. Just signed a petition to legalize beekeeping in NY.
What's the hot news on BCAT? Mostly about saving Coney Island. My roommate Claire is working on a website, saveconeyisland.net, which just put up its own petition. Sign both!
So...back to me.
I wanted to write about garlic because a few weeks ago I was sitting on my couch deliriously ill and over the phone my friend Robin suggested two possible home remedies for the common cold:
1. Drink hot water over crushed ginger
2. Eat raw garlic mixed with warm water and honey
Now I heard number 2 as "Eat raw garlic with hot water OR honey," and thought, of course honey is the better choice here! It'll disguise the intensity of the flavor...duh. Only an idiot would do anything else.
If you've ever eaten a mouthful of raw garlic minced by a fever-addled madwoman (by which I mean in large irregular chunks) you may not know how painful it is. I gagged and fell to the floor clutching approximately where my esophogus turns into my stomach. Or is it the intestine? Well, anyway. It hurt. It hurt again the next morning when I gave it another try. Eventually I checked in with Robin and figured out the warm water kind of helps the whole mess slide down a lot better.
I have a much admired tank top that says GILROY GARLIC FESTIVAL, but I've never been. It's one of my great dreams because horrible throat burning aside garlic is one of my favorite things. I put loads of it in every meal and that's why I smell and no one will ever love me. BUT on the flip side garlic is supposed to help prevent heart disease and cancer so it'll be a long life alone. Garlic thins your blood which is probably what's keeping the vampires away. They want the arteries choked with saturated fats...I'll never have a pale night-walking lover!
Around mid-summer we get bunches of beautiful green garlic scapes with our CSA. The first time they arrived I had never seen scapes before and was mystified by them. A garlic scape is basically a head of garlic bolting, or sending its flower up into the world. Garlic can cleverly grow from seed or by increasing its cloves under the ground. Since we like to eat the cloves it behooves garlic growers to snap off the scapes to keep them from flowering. That'll get the plant to concentrate its growing power on a full delicious bottom.
But you can eat them! Apparently. My cooking of scapes hasn't reached transcendental levels quite yet. It took Claire and I awhile to even figure out what the hell they were.
On both farms I stayed garlic was a part of the experience. At Frosty Morning Farms the garlic wasn't ready to harvest on my first visit and the second time they'd all already been yanked out of the ground and laid out to dry on stack after stack of plastic crates.
In between I was at Cross Island Farms where Dani was growing garlic for the first time. She'd planted a bunch of different varieties to see what would grow best in their wet clay earth. Now I don't want to sound like I know a damn thing, but Dani left the garlic in the ground way to long. I didn't know this until I spoke to Allison at Frosty as we went through the drying trays later. You need to pick garlic while the stalks are still green. Dani left her garlic in the ground until their tops molded and broke off as we attempted to ease them out of the ground. They were still tasty but they weren't pretty and probably wouldn't hold up as well to drying and preserving. Many of the heads were split open in unsightly ways or lost forever in the dirt.
That's ugly garlic. Pretty garlic is what I made with Allison!
She taught me to braid garlic in a simple rope. You soak the dry stems in water to soften them then over, under, through the loop...well, I can't really describe it (or replicate it on my own). The one pictured above I held up to photograph, telling Allison, "I'm pretty proud of this guy." She nodded in a non-commital way.
All these boring non-anecdotes have only garlic in common. But garlic has so many appealing qualities-medical, mystical, decorative...a fourth thing. It's the base for all my soups and under the skin of my roasted chickens. What else runs through so many aspects of our lives in such a positive way?
I don't really have an answer but if I'm going to keep my re-resolution I better publish this post. Feel free to leave any ideas in the comments