Sunday, July 23, 2006

Garlic! Pesto! Perfect!

June 28th Lesson Summary
Prepping a garden bed and preparing pesto

Wednesday was a beautiful day, hot and sunny. In the early morning, I biked to the Greenmarket in downtown Manhattan to pick up some fresh spring garlic from Keith Stewart’s organic stand. I worked for Keith all last fall, and this garlic was some of the 800,000 cloves we planted in October right before the frost hit. Rocamole garlic is a hardneck variety (sometimes called topset garlic), with large, non-overlapping cloves radiating from a hard central stem. It’s far more savory than traditional California-grown softneck Gilroy-garlic, but has a shorter shelf-life, making it ideal for the small-scale local farmer.

Most store-bought garlic is just the head, but to make our vegan-four-part-pesto (oil, nuts, basil and garlic), we had to learn to twist the cloves off the hardneck stem, peel the paper, and chose a fat, tasty clove to mince. We cut off the basal plate from the bottom of the clove, and talked about how garlic, a self-cloning plant, will grow genetically identical garlic from each clove, rather than through sexual reproduction with flowers. Garlic’s “flowers,” which have no pollen, grow at the top of the flowering stem, or scape. Because plants focus their energy on one thing at a time—flowering, growing leaves or roots, producing fruit—it’s important in the spring to remove the flowering scape to force the garlic to concentrate on making a hearty bulb. The farmers’ markets are full of flavorful scapes right now, which can be blended into pesto as easily as garlic cloves.

We washed, scored, julienned and diced the local, organic zucchini and summer squash to dip in the pesto, and prepared brown rice pasta. Brian and Jackson teamed up to make a mixed-nut Globe-basil blend that came out with delicious nutty chunks; Natalie used broad-leaved Mediterranean basil to produce a creamy, dark spread, and Madeline took a tasty turn with pine nuts, basil and bright pieces of carrot! I added blanched broccoli and almonds to mine. All told, a delicious and nutritious locally-grown day!