It was another lean week in the vegetable garden and I found myself again wondering if I would have anything interesting to say for this week’s Garden-to-Table Challenge at Greenish Thumb. I could say that the highlight of the week was the first ripe cherry tomatoes (all 8 of them), but if I had to choose my favorite – fresh tomatoes or fresh garlic – hmmm, well I don’t know. I really like garlic. Besides, we didn’t do anything with those tomatoes except to pop them in our mouths.
‘Ajo Rojo’, a creole garlic, was the first to mature this year. I dug them on Saturday. Probably should have done it a bit sooner, but Saturday is when I had time.
There seems to be no consensus on whether garlic should be washed after digging, but in my experience, washing will expose any potential rot and pest problems so you can take action. In the photo below, you can see a spot of something that left alone would probably cause the whole clove to rot. I use up any like that first and leave the healthy ones to cure.
In general, ‘Ajo Rojo’ looks pretty good this year. Knock on wood. In the past few years, I’ve had a lot of problems with rot and some kind of larvae, which I believe to be onion maggots. A few bulbs of garlic just made one large clove instead of several. I assume that had something to do with the size of the clove that was planted, but that’s just a guess. You can see a couple of those above, including the one with the bad spot.
Last night we had Baba Ganoush made with that one large clove of garlic and one other small one. I can still taste the garlic this morning. I don’t really have a recipe for Baba Ganoush, but I like to roast a nice fat eggplant on the grill, then purée the smoky, roasted pulp with a tablespoon or two of tahini, 2 or 3 or 4 or ? cloves of mashed garlic, the juice of about half a lemon, and salt to taste. After putting it into a serving dish, I drizzle olive oil on top and sprinkle with a bit of ground red chile. (It’s going to be a long time before we have any eggplant from the garden, so the eggplant was from the grocery store.)
In previous years, I haven’t done anything to preserve garlic other than to let it cure and store it in the garage for the winter, but this year I’m trying something new. Pickled garlic. Or garlic vinegar. Take your pick.
Let me back up and say that I love herb-infused vinegars. In the past few years, I’ve made tarragon vinegar, purple basil vinegar, and mint vinegar. I use them occasionally for salads, but more often like a seasoning. Just a few drops of herb vinegar added to sautéed vegetables (or almost anything) invigorates the whole dish. Not so much that you really taste the vinegar or the herb, but just enough to brighten the taste.
Spearmint vinegar turned out to be one of the most useful for that purpose and my ‘Kentucky Colonel’ spearmint is going to get unruly if I don’t cut it back soon, so that mint will soon be swimming in vinegar in the fridge.
I treat these vinegars as a sort of refrigerator pickle. Pack a glass jar with herbs. Pour in enough vinegar to cover the herbs. Put it in the fridge and keep it there. You can start to use it any time, but the herb flavor will get stronger as it sits. Some people remove the herbs after a while, but I don’t.
So I’m debating whether to employ this method using garlic alone, or to combine garlic and herbs. What would you do?