In season


By Tara Swartzendruber-Landis / Photography By Grant Beachy | Last Updated January 09, 2018
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garlic provided by Granor Farm, Three Oaks, MI

There is no end to garlic’s usefulness. Try the garlic recipes here or simply roast some in the oven and eat with your favorite bread, olive oil and a bit of good salt. Pour a glass of wine and call it dinner.

During autumn in Vermont, circa 2012, I was living in a small rented farmhouse with my husband and two young children as we tried on a new life and a new place. Our view in the valley of the Green Mountains was postcard perfect. Across the street were beautiful fields of green garlic in early summer, turned to dry yellow stalks
by late summer. I had never seen so much garlic in one place and was excited to get my hands on it right after the harvest.

One day we walked across the street and down a long winding path to a small red barn. A couple of people were inside stacking, sorting and placing garlic in small wooden bins so that it could breathe and wouldn’t develop mold. The barn was warm and inviting and smelled slightly dusty from all the dried and cured garlic. The farm grew 60 different varieties—some hot, some mellow, some sweet—ranging in color from purplish pink to buttery yellow.

Before I picked out the garlic I wanted to buy, the farmer asked how I planned to prepare it. He waxed poetic for some time about the virtues of many different varieties, and we left with at least six types to try at home.

I was struck by how garlic, an allium, seems to be present in most cuisines on earth. Home cooks use garlic, like onions, to lend an earthy, pungent base to almost everything we eat. Depending on how you handle it, garlic can be strong (tear inducing) or mellow. Cooking it over too much heat produces a bitterness that can be off-putting. So, what you want to do is use gentle heat to coax the most enjoyable flavors out of garlic.

Too much garlic or undercooked garlic can be so overwhelming that you taste nothing else, and it can stay with you for days. We can all remember taking a bite of something, and bam!—garlic leapt up and slapped you in the face. Singed garlic, on the other hand, leaves a distinct bitterness in your mouth as well as a gritty texture. But, oh, those moments when you pull fragrant, swollen cloves out of a roasting pan and savor the smooth paste on a good piece of bread can transport you to a warm, sunny place where the pace of life is slower and nothing could be better.

Garlic oil is good for flavoring salads and sandwiches. After removing your grilled cheese from the pan, slice a clove in half and rub it across the toasted bread for an elevated sandwich. Rub a cut clove around your salad bowl before tossing the greens. Smash a clove and let it sit in your homemade vinaigrette for 15 minutes to flavor the dressing without overwhelming it. Remove before serving.

There is no end to garlic’s usefulness. Try Julia Child’s Chicken with 40 Cloves for a truly remarkable dish. Try the garlic recipes here or simply roast some in the oven and eat with your favorite bread, olive oil and a bit of good salt. Pour a glass of wine and call it dinner.

Selecting: Look for firm heads that haven’t sprouted green stems.

Storing: Store at room temperature, where the garlic gets air circulation and can breathe.

Preparing: Follow recipes when deciding how to cut your garlic. Each preparation leads to a stronger or milder final product. Cook at a lower temperature. Too high of heat can singe delicate cloves and lead to a bitter flavor that can be off-putting.

Pairing: Almonds, anchovies, bacon, basil, bay leaf, beans, beef, beets, bread, broccoli, cabbage, caraway seeds, cheese, chicken, chile peppers, chives, cilantro, coriander, cream, cumin, eggplant, eggs, fennel, fish, ginger, lamb, leeks, lemon, lemongrass, lentils, lime, mushrooms, mustard, oil, onions, oregano, paprika, parsley, pasta, pepper, pork, potatoes, rice, rosemary, saffron, sage, salt, shallots, shellfish, soy sauce, spinach, steak, stock, sugar, tarragon, thyme, tomatoes, vinegar, white wine, zucchini.

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