I take a homegrown garlic bulb from its basket in the basement. Of the hardneck variety, I prefer the more complex flavor of Allium sativum ssp. ophioscorodon to the mild softneck, Allium sativum ssp. Sativum.
While it’s on my mind, I must say cupping my fingers around a hardneck bulb while walking up thirteen steps gratifies my soul.
It’s an exercise to enlarge my capacity for joy and stimulate my memory, imagination, and zeal for cooking a delicious and nutritious meal.
I recall my posture of prayer while setting forty cloves in October’s soil, then mulching with oak leaves. Come next April or May, I’ll spy green sprouts in the leaves.
And of all the world’s architectural marvels, the spiral scapes will emerge from the center stems in June while the irises bloom.
The scape is as tasty as mature cloves. The pointed seedpod and coil make a gorgeous garnish on a plate, bowl, or platter. Making the most of a plant is a gardener and cook’s delight.
Then it’s time to prune the scape from the plant. This directs more nutrition underground to develop a robust bulb.
Infatuated with their furling and unfurling stems summer past, I forgot to prune the scapes from the plants.
The result? Wimpy garlic bulbs for cooking and cloves for planting. Come next June, I’ll remove the pod stems and see what my efforts yield when I harvest my crop.
Standing by the kitchen counter, I separate the cloves from the hardneck stem and think of Jeanette Farley, a fellow Friend of Herbs based at Seven Ponds Nature Center.
A good while ago, Jeanette donated her time and twenty softneck and twenty hardneck cloves to begin my garlic patch. We dug and set them on a bitter, windy October day. That’s one example of Jeanette’s admirable dedication to good food and friendship.
I throw the bare hardneck stem on the kitchen floor. Cuddles, our tortoiseshell cat, jumps down from her rocking chair and swats the stem in feline gymnastics.
I sense some irony. Although my mother loved cats, she loathed garlic. She remained faithful to yellow and green onions, always served with soup beans and cornbread until she could no longer cook.
Green onions definitely have their place on my table. The mandarin orange salad recipe I inherited wouldn’t be complete without two chopped scallions. There’s no way Allium sativum ssp. ophioscorodon could pull off what the Allium Fistulosum achieves in that blend of Romaine lettuce, almonds, onion, and fruit.
Miraculously, Mom made spaghetti sauce that rivaled any red-blooded Italian’s without the scent or appearance of garlic in her kitchen.
However, God is good to His children. Since the night someone served me steamy, buttery garlic bread in 1967, my capacity for garlic expands with the number of cookbooks on my kitchen bookshelf.
Dear Reader, Cuddles chases her garlic toy while I mince several cloves and sauté them with onion and venison for spaghetti bolognaise.
Next I slice and slather the baguette with garlic butter. Oh, what joy!
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