Monday, June 18, 2007

Wherein I discover a brand new vegetable

I first noticed them at a farmers' market stall about a year ago. I wondered what a cook would do with them. Thinking of the flower stalk on other alliums, I would have expected them to be woody to the point of inedibility. Since then I've learned a bit about garlic scapes, which have become the darling of the vegetable world.

The scape is removed from the garlic plant in order to force the plant to put its energy into the bulb. Garlic farmers used to discard them but now they've become a bonus crop. Recipes for using them abound on food blogs everywhere, with garlic scape pesto being the most common.

Last fall I planted several varieties of garlic, but in my usual haphazard way of gardening I forgot exactly which varieties I'd planted where. I was delighted to discover yesterday that a couple rows of plants had sent up scapes. That would be the hardneck variety then. (Apparently only the hardneck varieties produce scapes.) I picked them all and headed back to the kitchen to play with them.

The scapes grow in a curl, like a pig's tail. I didn't have my camera handy but anyways, you should go to this web site to see what they look like because Floyd the Food Guy's photography is some of the best on the internet. I harvested mine when they were 9-12" long and they had the tender crispness of an asparagus spear and a delicate garlic flavor. The ones I saw in the farmers' market were 2-3 feet long; I suspect at that size they aren't nearly as tender and smelled quite strong.

I used a dozen of the scapes to make a pesto--just the scapes, about 1/2 cup olive oil, and a few handsful of grated cheese (I used Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggio, which is a blend of asiago, parmesan, fontina, and provolone because it's what I had on hand). The sauce was a beautiful pale greenish yellow and the lightest, sweetest garlic taste you could ever imagine.

The rest of my scapes went into a stir fry with chunks of tofu, ground pork, dried fungus, ginger, and soy sauce. They kept their bright color and crunch throughout the cooking and made a nice contrast to the cubes of tofu and the other textures.

It's the softneck garlic that you want for winter storage. The hardneck varieties don't keep more than a few months. But I'll definitely be planting a lot more hardneck garlic this fall. I'm sure I can find someone to take any surplus heads of garlic off my hands, and I am in love with this new seasonal vegetable.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Quickly now, before it becomes Bloomsday (which I guess it already is for everyone east of the Pacific time zone) instead of garden bloggers' bloom day, here is a compendium of what's in bloom on Tiger Mountain today.

First, the report.
In the vegetable garden: peas, potatoes, squash, topsetting onion, and tomatoes
In the herb beds: thyme, sage, lavender
In the woods: foxglove, himalayan blackberry, alpine strawberries
In the bog: water hemlock
In the borders: clematis, campanula, hardy geranium, oriental poppy, viola, deutzia glauca, tradescantia, astilbe, and roses! (Souvenir de la Malmaison, Rose de Rescht, Madame Hardy, Just Joey, Kathleen, Wine and Roses, Joseph's Coat, Cecille Brunner)

On to the pictures! I arrived home late from work this evening, and by the time we'd had dinner, it was getting on towards twilight. Shooting in low light without a flash gave me some interesting effects, in some cases almost like a watercolor.

Rose 'Kathleen', an old musk shrub rose

'Just Joey', hybrid tea

'Wine and Roses', another very old shrub rose

'Madame Hardy' damask

Oriental poppy



tradescantia, in the shadow of a variegated cornus alba

astilbe, also in the shadow of cornus alba

giant lupines

Made it, with 1 minute to spare!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

They grow up so fast!

Seems like only yesterday they were sleepy little fluffballs:

Now they're two weeks old and life is all about eating, not sleeping.

They've moved into the big girls' coop, with their own corner fenced off where they can get away from the bossy hens, but still have plenty of room to roam around, and eat their own food, which the hens always seem to prefer to their layer pellets.

I just realized I never posted pix of the khaki campbell ducklings I received a few days after the chicks. Here they are, then:

And now:

Yes, they're adorable also, but more dimwitted animals you've never seen in your life. At least the chickens have the good sense to drink their water, not splash it out all over their bedding and then stand shivering in a soggy mess.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Unwelcome guest

Alfalfa pellets are a popular inexpensive organic fertilizer. Because the roots of the alfalfa plant grow deep into the ground the plant (allegedly) is a valuable source of trace minerals, as well as nitrogen. All I know is my roses love the stuff. But I was not expecting the bumper crop of alfalfa that has sprung up around my Golden Wings heirloom shrub rose, and which threatens to choke it out if I don't get in there and do something about it soon. And because the roots of the alfalfa plant grow deep into the ground. . .ugh.