Alliums Oh My! Onions, Garlic and Shallot

Did you know that about 80% of the garlic eaten in the US is imported from CHINA!

How can this be when its such an easy thing to grow?  Drought tolerant, few pests, narrow leaves that easily interplanted with other veggies, great companion plant to tomatoes and roses – plant it and basically forget it.  It’s even kind of perennial in that it comes back from seeds and bulbs leftover from previous years.

My garlic and shallots seem to have grown and matured extra early this summer with the heat and drought.  The leaves and stems of the plants were turning brown and the shallots were heaving themselves out of the soil so I went ahead and pulled most of them out.  They’re sitting in baskets on my porch, ‘curing’.  They need to sit for about 6 weeks to dry and stabilize, moving sugars from leaves down to bulb.  After this curing time I’ll put them in paper bags and place in my cool, dark basement until planting time in mid October after a good frost.  Garlic planted in fall results in large bulbs the following year.  I always miss a few flowers or scapes when I remove them in spring so I always have a decent supply of garlic seeds.  The scapes are removed to encourage bulb formation. The seeds will drop and sprout but take a long time to produce a sizeable bulb.  However in the long run I have a continual and perennial supply of garlic from eating the  scapes in spring to fresh, small garlic in summer to bulbs in fall and winter.  The soft neck type of garlic grown here won’t store all winter so there are a couple ways to preserve them.  The first is to separate the garlic cloves from the mother bulb and freeze them in ziploc baggies.  They can be chopped frozen and added to dishes.  The second way is to make garlic vinegar which is easy enough to do by dropping some peeled garlic cloves in a bottle of cider or other mild vinegar – rice vinegar is also good.  Garlic can also be pickled and canned similar to cucumbers or jalapenos.  I like to make a pesto preserved with salt and oil and kept in the frig.  This is adapted from Recipes From a Kitchen Garden by Renee Shepard

Preserved Garlic Basil Pesto

a couple sterilized glass pint canning jars with lids.  (wash the canning jar and lid and pour boiling water over them)

2 cups washed and dried basil leaves packed firm

1 cup freshly grated Asiago, Remano or Parmesan cheese

1 head clove garlic – peeled and minced

coarse salt and pepper

olive oil

Finely mince the basil leaves and mix with the grated cheese and minced garlic.  Pour a fine layer of salt and pepper in the bottom of a pint jar.  Add 2 inches of the basil-cheese-garlic mixture and press down firmly to remove air and add another layer of basil mixture. Continue layering the basil mixture and salt until you reach the top of the jar.  Leave about a half inch space at the top of the jar and fill with olive oil.  The jars keep very well for up to a year in the refrigerator. Keep the oil layer intact over the basil after you use it.  Dip into the jar under the oil to add that summery pesto flavor to winter soups, stews and sauces!

I’ve had an excellent garlic crop this year and harvested about 500 bulbs!  I’ve been giving a lot of the smaller bulbs away and saving the largest ones to replant in October. This is the first year I’ve grown shallots but they are  wonderful in a saute with chicken and a good smoky Hungarian paprika.  I’ve harvested about 50 shallot bulbs.  This weekend I’ll make the classic caramelized shallots to eat on Black Angus hamburgers with blue cheese!

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