Dilly Dallying in the Pickled Beans: An Intro to Canning with Jennifer Audette

July 28th, 2012 § 7

Delicious Dilly Beans

Dilly Beans: Easy Entrance to the World of Canning      Guest Author – Jennifer Audette

Here in New England, a moment exists each growing season when the stars align and your local farmstand, farmer’s market or (if you’re really amazing), own garden suddenly has all the necessary ingredients for the first batch of Dilly Beans. I have the fortune of working in the ‘stand at Walker Farm in Dummerston, VT and this past Thursday it happened. On Wednesday, the fantastic field crew picked seven bushels of beans and then four more the following day.  That means beans coming out our ears for a few days. The first, shy harvest of red chilies appeared in a small bowl, bouquets of dill heads made my mouth water in anticipation of eating pickled things and the garlic has been harvested and waiting patiently for several weeks now.  It’s time to pickle those beans!

As a kid, I spent a lot of time helping my Mom can things like peaches, pears and applesauce. I was a master of slipping skins from blanched peaches; sliding the glistening, sunrise-colored orbs into a mild vinegar bath to keep them from discoloring.  In the autumn, I looked forward to the smell of warm, cooked apples wafting up to meet me as I managed the Foley Food Mill from my perch on the stool. My mom’s palate tends toward the sweet; she’s been known to sprinkle sugar on salad greens deemed too bitter. She doesn’t do hot peppers or vinegar in large quantity and she’s only recently discovered the joys of garlic. Dilly Beans were not part of my childhood canning experience.  But I crave the savory world more than I crave the sweet world and so several years ago, after my Mom had set me up with all the paraphernalia for canning, I found the recipe for Dilly Beans in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and entered my very own world of canning…

Slender, Verdant Beauties, Await Morning Harvest

Home Grown Herbs & Spices: Hard Neck Garlic, Chili Peppers & Dill

Freshly Harvested, Washed & Trimmed Haricots Verts from the Potager

This is where I’m supposed to give you a nice tutorial about making Dilly Beans; a specific recipe, step-by-step instructions and such. Unfortunately, I’m not that kind of person. I’m not very good at specifics and I almost never following directions exactly and I certainly don’t do anything the same way twice. But, if you were here with me, I would be happy to show you how I do it. Side by side, you would help me find eight wide-mouth pint jars in the storage space under the stairs, wiping away cobwebs and hoping no mice scurried out.  You would fill the dishpan with hot, soapy water and then wash the jars, the brand new lids and the old screw caps. Together we would wait a long, long time for the half-full kettle of water to come to a boil, discovering while we waited that I didn’t have enough white vinegar for the recipe. I would send you to the store for that.  Thanks, it’s so nice to have a helper!

I’d want to show you how I organize my workspace so that the jars are being sterilized in the large pot of water on the left front burner, the lids are simmering for 10 minutes (not boiling!) in their own separate pan on a back burner and the pickling liquid is simmering on the other front burner.  We’d remove one jar at a time from the hot water and pack them with the beans I’d prepared the night before (washed and trimmed), garlic cloves, chili peppers and dill. We’d fill the jars to a ¼” from the top with the hot pickling solution, remove any bubbles, wipe the top, slap on a lid and load each one into the canner basket.  Likely, there are much better ways to go about packing jars with garlic, chilies, dill and beans. I’m not very good at it and it takes me way longer than it seems like it should. (Maybe if you were here you would have come up with a more efficient way to stuff all those beans into jars!)  But eventually, all 4 pounds of beans and spices would be nestled into jars and lowered into the canning pot. Once we reached a rolling boil, we’d set the timer for 10 minutes. Tick, tick, tick….ding! After a short rest, we’d use the super-cool jar tongs to remove them from the hot water. Then we’d high-five and tell the cat to clean up the mess while we sat out on the porch toasting our efforts with a cool beverage. I’d give you your very own copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and you’d eagerly look through it for your next canning project (balsamic caramelized onions, sweet and spicy pepper relish, bread and butter pickles, tomato sauce, tomatillo salsa, hot peppers for sandwiches, barbecue sauce), knowing how easy it is to preserve the summer’s bounty, once you learn the ropes.

Dilly Beans

Dilly Bean ingredient list*

Ingredients to be Evenly Distributed in Each Jar:

4 pounds green beans, washed and trimmed

8 cloves of garlic

8 small red chilies

8 dill heads

Pickling Solution:

5 cups white vinegar

5 cups water

½ cup pickling salt

*For all the important canning safety basics and full recipe with directions, please take the time to locate a good book from the canning canon and do your homework.  The previously mentioned Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving is a very approachable, easy-to-use introduction, full of inspiring recipes. It’s a reasonable $9 or so and you might even find it at your local hardware store along with all the necessary canning supplies. Have fun!

 Today’s guest blogger, the multi-talented writer Jennifer Audette, is author of the always entertaining and often humorous Cozy Toes Blogspot. When not experimenting with canning, baking, cooking, horticulture, entomology or other scientific pursuits, Jennifer can also be found hiking, making music, writing and delivering smiles to her very fortunate friends.

Thank you Jen! xo

Some Great Resources for Learning to Safely Preserve the Harvest…

Putting Food By

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving with 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes

How to Store Your Garden Produce

Tips for Growing and Harvesting Tasty Green Beans

Haricots verts —or French-style filet beans— are slender, deep green and very flavorful. All beans should be picked frequently in mid-summer —daily when hot— to insure they don’t go to seed. For best flavor and texture, harvest beans when they are no thicker than the diameter of a pencil. As with most crops, I think it’s best to pick beans very early in the morning, before the heat of the day. Marigold and Summer Savory —believed to improve the growth of bush beans and deter beetles— are fantastic companion plants for haricots verts. Enrich soil with well rotted compost and provide plants with regular foliar feeding (applying liquid fertilizer to leaves in a spray or shower) of Neptune’s Harvest or fish emulsion to insure strong, healthy plants and a beautiful, tasty crop. Always wash beans thoroughly when harvesting, especially after applying fish emulsion or any fertilizer. Green beans provide their best yield during the first three weeks of harvest. With this in mind, I like to succession plant this crop for a steady supply of tender young beans straight through the killing frost.

Dilly Beans: Easy Entrance to the World of Canning ⓒ 2012 Jennifer Audette. Photographs ⓒ 2012 Jennifer Audette and Michaela Medina for The Gardener’s Eden, as noted. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not use photographs without permission. Thank you! 

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Bavarian Purple, Spanish Roja & More: Selecting & Planting Gourmet Garlic …

October 24th, 2011 § 2

Gorgeous, Gourmet Garlic! Bulbs, Clockwise from Top of Ceramic Bowl: German White, Russian Red, Bavarian Purple & Spanish Roja. On Table: Two Heads of Doc’s German & One Each of German Red & Music. In Basket: A Combination of All Garlic Varieties, Plus Continental.

Creatures of the night, beware: I grow garlic! Garlic and onion braids hang from the wooden beams of my kitchen, and they inhabit colorful ceramic keepers on my shelves. I have garlic galore planted in my garden, squirreled away for winter use upon shelves in paper bags and hanging from floor joists in my cellar. Vampires dare not kiss me, for I cook with this delightfully stinky herb most every night.

Every autumn, I plant many varieties of cold hardy, hardneck garlic in my potager (hardneck garlic is the best choice for climates with long, cold winters). It’s a good idea to purchase garlic grown close to your own home (this insures the hardiest selections for your climate and local growing conditions), and traditionally, each October, I visit the annual Garlic & Arts Festival in nearby North Orange, Massachusetts, to select a few more gourmet bulbs for my garden. One of my all-time favorite garlic varieties, which I finally found at the festival a few years ago, is Spanish Roja (a rocambole hardneck garlic). This beautifully colored, hot and spicy selection possesses a true garlic flavor and easy-to-peel cloves, making it one of the most popular —and sometimes hard to find— bulbs at market. This zesty variety and others —including German Red, Bavarian Purple and Russian Red—-  tend  to be my favorite types for roasting and cooking. But I also love the milder varieties of garlic —including smokey, medium heat Continental— for salad dressing, salsa, cold pasta and other recipes calling for raw cloves, and for use in subtler dishes.

Garlic Bulbs are Harvested in Late Summer, When the Tops Yellow, Wither and Flop (Also True for Onions). Once Lifted from the Earth with a Garden Fork, Excess Soil is Shaken from the Bulbs as They ‘Cure’ for Two Weeks in a Warm, Dry Place.

Many hard neck garlic varieties (including rocambole, porcelain and striped) store beautifully in cool, dark, dry conditions. Porcelain garlic bulbs, such as German White and Music, are exceptionally good selections for long-term (up to 9 months under optimal conditions) storage. Russian Red, another good-sized porcelain hardneck variety, is also a top-notch keeper. I hang garlic braids in my kitchen and always have a few bulbs on hand in ceramic keepers, but most of my garlic is stored on shelves in a cool (approximately 55 degrees) part of my dark, dry cellar. After harvest and curing (for more detail, see previous post by clicking here) I like to store my garlic bulbs in braids (click here for my popular onion/garlic braiding tutorial with step-by-step photos) and in loosely folded, brown paper bags (this provides ample air circulation). I mark the name of the variety on the outside for quick reference. Some bulbs return to the garden every autumn, and the rest remain in stock on my shelves for winter and springtime use.

Preparing to Plant Garlic: Breaking a Basket of Large, Firm, Hard Neck Bulbs into Cloves

Mid-autumn is the best time to plant hardneck garlic in my climate. Each year I rotate my crop; preparing a new garlic bed with fresh compost in late September. Selecting large, firm bulbs from my crop, I carefully separate the cloves and prepare tags for each variety. On a cool, dry October day, I plant each clove approximately 2″ deep and 4-6″ apart (space wider for big, porcelain bulbs like Music). Mulching is very important in cold climates like Vermont. I use throughly rotted compost and clean straw or ground oak leaves for a nice thick mulch. Read more about garlic planting, and find a link back to removing and using garlic scapes, in my previous post “A Thousand Mothers Set Into Earth” by clicking here.

Of Course the Best Part of Growing Garlic is Eating It! Click Here for a Delicious Garlic and Potato Soup Recipe

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Simple Storage Solutions with Style: Beautiful Braided Onions…

August 15th, 2010 § 8

A Sweet Onion Braid – Drying on a Late Summer Day

Warm, dry air and sparkling blue skies; here in Vermont, these are the first golden days of late summer bliss. As I swing in my big, old hammock —surrounded by the meadow-song of crickets and chattering finches— my mind drifts to nothing more important than the thought of spicy gazpacho and homemade crackers for lunch. Mmm… Gazpacho – one of my summertime favorites. I love the flavor of fresh, pungent onions, herbs and garden-ripe tomatoes. And speaking of onions, with the nights growing cooler —filled with showers of shooting stars— and the days growing shorter, it’s time to think about digging up those tasty bulbs and putting some up for winter…

Wondering when to pull? You can begin to harvest when most of the tops have flopped…

I’ve been harvesting baskets of onions from my potager this week; taking advantage of the long, dry spell to cure them on the sunny terrace. (Click here to read more about growing and harvesting onions, and find my favorite French Onion Soup recipe in a post from last year)  Cippolini, Walla Walla and Ailsa Craig —sweet members of the Allium cepa species— are my favorite garden onions. Because these mild onions are poor candidates for long-term, winter storage, I braid them and hang them in my kitchen and basement for immediate and continued use throughout late summer and fall (pungent, globe-type onions in red, white and yellow are the best long-term, winter-keepers in my root cellar). Shallots, garlic and onions are all easy to braid, and I find this short-term method of storage to be both practical and aesthetically pleasing in my kitchen…

Sweet Onion Style…

Many readers of this blog are long-time gardeners and cooks, with years of experience growing and storing produce. But for those of you who are new to putting food by —or with curious, young gardeners-in-training— onion braids are a great, creative way to begin preparing a pantry of stored produce. I start the process by gently pulling onions from the garden during a clear-weather stretch (carefully loosening them from the soil by rocking the earth with a fork positioned at least 6-8″ from the bulbs), dry-curing them on my terrace (or, if rain is in the forecast, spread out on newspaper in a protected porch or shed) for a week. As the onions dry, I gently turn, brush and shake them to remove dirt (be careful not to bruise the tender flesh). While the tops of the onions are still green and pliant, I gather bunches in groups of 6-12 for braiding. The smaller onions (especially the coin-like Cippolini) look particularly attractive in long braids with 12 or more bulbs per chain. The larger onions —such as the Walla Walla— need a bit more room, so I braid these bulbs in groups of 6-8…

Start with three onions…

Are you familiar with the classic French braid? My hair is quite long, and I often wear it pulled back in this manner when I am working. Braiding onions is quite like French braiding hair. The chain starts out like a normal braid, (see photo above) with three onions layered one on top of the other. A slight tapered angle looks nice, varying the start lengths, but this is a subtle detail and it isn’t necessary for beginners. Begin by making one braid chain from the onion greens as you would with hair, yarn or rope. Simply pull greens from the outside edge, holding them at the center to make an ‘x’, alternating sides as you go. If your onions are very large, you may want to make two or three links before you begin to add more onions…

Add onions as you go – alternating sides, just as you would with a French braid…

Now here is where the process begins to resemble the French braids that girls use to tie back their hair. Do you remember how you pull sections of hair from alternate side of the head, adding them to the main braid as you go? The same method applies when you are braiding onions or any other bulb. When you bring the onion greens toward the center to make an ‘x’, add another onion (as shown in the photo below. Hold this in place with the fingers of one hand as you bring greens from the other side, making the usual cross at the center. Once you have one link (or more or larger onions), repeat the process on the other side. To make your braid attractive, keep your link pattern even as you go…

Spacing can be one onion per link, or skip a link or two if onions are very large…

You can make your onion braids as long as you want, that part is up to you. Once you have reached your desired length, it will be easier to tie the onions with twine if you make a few links with greens only and hold the end together tightly. Once you have the hang of it, you can simply tie the onions at the base if you like, without adding extra links. That is a creative decision. You can also make your braids from different varieties of onions, or add bits of dried herbs. It’s all up to you…

Stop the braid when you have reached the desired hanging length. I usually aim for 8-12 onions per braid, depending on variety and size…

I tie the ends of my braids with garden twine. You can also use recycled rubber bands…

Tie the end of the chain tightly with twine, ribbon, string or looped rubber bands. Hold the chain by the greens and give it a good shake to be sure it’s solid and to remove any loose dirt. Hang the onions in a dry, sunny spot for another week or so to continue curing. Then bring them indoors to store in your kitchen for immediate use, or in a cool, dry spot (floor joists in cellars work well). Onions can also be stored in a cool, dark, dry place in baskets or woven bins (for airflow) once they are dry cured and their greens are removed…

The Braided Onions – Tied and Ready for Storage…

Cippolini Onion Braid – This storage method works for all kinds of onions, and for garlic as well…

Cippolini Onion Harvest and Braiding…

I think braided onions, garlic and shallots look beautiful hanging from the beams in my timber-frame home. As the harvest season continues, herbs and dried flowers will join the onion braids hanging in my kitchen, bringing wonderful, warm and pungent smells, earthy colors and attractive textures to the room. Even if you don’t grow your own onions, you can make braids for your kitchen by asking a local farmer to sell you uncured bulbs with greens attached. And, some markets sell cured onions in braids or bunches at the early part of the season. Be aware that because kitchens tend to get hot and steamy, unless you plan to use your onions and garlic immediately —and regularly— it’s best to store them out of the kitchen, in a cool, dark place.

Cippolini Onions Hanging from a Beam in the Kitchen… Ready for Roasting!

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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August Abundance: Notes from the Kitchen Garden…

August 12th, 2010 § 3

My Summertime Kitchen

Mid August is always a busy month in the kitchen garden. Abundant cucumbers, summer squash, beans, tomatoes, peppers, herbs and onions must be harvested and put up —frozen, dried, pickled and/or canned— at the peak of freshness. Late summer chores in the potager include watering —especially during this extended dry spell we are experiencing in New England— weeding, monitoring and managing pests, succession sowing for short-season fall crops, and of course, daily harvests. Some of my stand-out crops this year include cippolini and sweet onions, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, romanesco broccoli, arugula, cucumbers, and finally —after last season’s meager crop and fears about late blight— gorgeous, fruitful tomatoes. Read more about the highlighted crops by clicking on each to return to a previous blog-post.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good idea to make notes for next year; jotting down harvest dates, this season’s plant successes and failures, troublesome pests and current plant family locations to assist you with next year’s crop rotation. Carrots look stunted or forked? Maybe it’s a good time to raise your beds, giving them more root-room. Lush growth in your garden but little or no produce? It could be time to test your soil pH and fertility. Plants petering out? Sow some quick turn-around crops like lettuce, arugula, beets, peas and beans for a fall harvest. If you live in a cold climate, now may be a good time to begin constructing hoop-houses to protect your crops from frost and extend the growing season (see post on hoop house construction here). If you are making your own compost, be sure to turn it regularly, keeping content balanced with layers of fresh ‘green’ kitchen scraps and pulled garden plants, dry (such as straw and paper) and brown (mature compost).

And busy as we gardeners tend to be in August, I like to slow myself down by pulling out the camera and taking a close look at the beautiful colors, textures and shapes in my late summer potager. Here are some highlights from my morning garden walk and daily harvest…

Romanesco Broccoli in the Potager

Sungold Cherry Tomatoes Ripening in the Garden

The Beautiful Edibles – Nasturtium and Pansies in the Potager

Ripening Butternut Squash Along the Kitchen Garden Fence

Cippolini Onions at Harvest

Yellow Summer Squash and Haricots Verts

Red Hot Chili Peppers in August

Morning Glories Along the Potager Fence

Orange Blossom and Early Girl Tomatoes in August

Basically Beautiful – Orange Blossom and Basil Salad

Garlic Harvest – Hard Neck Music, Continental & Doc’s German Garlic Drying on the Terrace

Haricots Verts, Calendula, Tomatoes, Arugula, Nasturtiums and Alpine Strawberries Bask in the Late Summer Sun

Blanching and Freezing Haricots Verts from the Kitchen Garden

Shiitake Mushrooms Harvested from the Mushroom Garden in my Forest (See Tutorial Post Here)

Ruby Red Chard in the Potager

Summertime Herb Harvest – Rosemary, Thyme, Sage and Mint

An Armful of Fresh-Cut Flowers Makes for a Different Kind of Treat in the Jar

Late Summer Abundance in the Potager

Late Summer Chaos in My Kitchen (read about building this homemade kitchen island here)

Gourmet Potatoes, Chard, Cucumbers, and Nasturtiums in the Potager

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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It’s Time for the Great Scape: Harvesting And Enjoying Flavorful Garlic Greens…

June 24th, 2010 § 3

Scapes forming on hard neck garlic in my potager…

Curious looking things aren’t they, the garlic scapes? In fact, whenever I look at them, I can’t help but think of ET. You do remember ET, don’t you? The friendly little alien flying around on a bicycle, trying to phone home? Of course you do. I loved that movie when I was a kid. And, who could forget such a beautiful-homely little creature? Well I think garlic scapes are a bit like ET. They are freakish, but you can’t help loving them. Look closely. Do you see a scrawny, curled little finger in there? OK, so maybe my way of looking at things is a bit odd, but I figure if you are reading this blog on a regular basis, you are getting used to it. You don’t really mind, do you?

Garlic Scape Harvest in June…

ET Phone Home...

Elliot… ?

Alright, back to the scapes. Last fall, I wrote a fairly lengthy article on how to grow garlic. And shortly after I published it, my friend John emailed, curious about why I didn’t mention garlic scapes. Well, there were two good reasons actually. Garlic scapes are a gourmet delight; found at Farmer’s Markets and specialty grocers, usually during the month of June. First of all, I wanted to wait until scapes were actually in season, so I could include a recipe for garlic scape pesto, (which I tried last summer and loved). And the second reason had to do with a matter of horticultural opinion.  As hard neck garlic, (Allium sativum) matures, it produces a straight green stalk which then forms a loop or two at the top. This loopity loop -which reminds me of ET’s finger- is the budding garlic flower; more commonly called a ‘scape’. That knobby spot is where a bulbis will form if left on the plant. Some growers remove the bulbis and sell the scapes at market. In theory, the plant’s energy is redirected toward underground bulb production. Other growers prefer to leave the bulbis intact until autumn harvest, later drying and propagating garlic from the bulbis’ themselves. I decided an experiment was called for on this one…

I enjoy eating garlic scapes. So, I usually harvest them in June. But last year I left a group standing, as a little horti-science project. I know – geek. And interestingly, I noted no difference in bulb size between the plants with bulbis left standing, and the garlic with scapes cut in June. So, there you have it, my little scientific report on garlic scapes. Others may have differing results, and I am interested to hear about their experiments. But for now, I will feel completely guiltless eating all the scapes my heart desires. And now that we are finally on the subject of eating them, I must say that one of my favorite ways to enjoy garlic scapes is in a pesto sauce. I tried several recipes last summer, and my favorite is actually a hybrid between one I found on Adam Roberts’ Amateur Gourmet and another referenced on Adam’s blog from Dorie Greenspan. I actually like the pesto with almonds, as Dorie prepares it, but I rarely have them in my house. Pine nuts are always in my cupboard, and I use them frequently in all kinds of pesto.

Garlic scapes are cut off just below the first or second set of leaves, and once harvested, can be prepared many ways. In addition to serving them in pesto, as pictured here, I also enjoy them blanched, roasted or sauteed with a bit of olive oil. If you’ve never had them… do seek these curious curlicues out at the farmer’s market. The scape season passes quickly, and it’s important to harvest them just as they form their loop-di-loops, or they become tough and bitter. Of course, if you grow your own garlic, (see super easy instructions here), then you will have a ready supply every June to enjoy in season, or freeze for later…

Garlic Scape Pesto Rotini – With a Garnish of Calendula Blossoms ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Garlic Scape Pesto

(From the collective wisdom of Dorie Greenspan and Adam of Amateur Gourmet)

Ingredients (makes 2 cups +/- of pesto):

12 Garlic Scapes, chopped fine in food processor

1/2 cup grated parmesean

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or almonds

1/2 cup olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Rotini or spaghetti or other pasta, cooked al dente and rinsed

Directions:

Put washed scapes, cheese, pine nuts, salt and 1/4 cup of olive oil into a food processor  with a metal blade. Blend the ingredients and slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Taste and adjust cheese and salt to suit your preferences. If you want a very smooth pesto, blend until creamy. If you are looking for a more rustic paste, then remove from the processor when just blended.

Use immediately as an appetizer, such as a spread on warm bread, a topping or layer on pizza or lasagna, or my favorite way: mixed with rotini pasta and chilled for lunch. If you aren’t using the pesto right away, place it in an airtight container, covering the top with a sheet of plastic wrap to protect the beautiful color from oxidization. Garlic scape pesto can be refrigerated for a few days, or you can freeze it for 2 – 3 months and use it later in the summer…

Garlic Scape Pesto – The Color of Summer!

Mmm…

Curly, twirly garlic scape – a beautiful freak of nature…

ET The Extra Terrestrial on DVD


Article and Photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Quickie Dinner? Fresh from the Garden? Penne with Oven-Roasted Broccoli…

June 19th, 2010 Comments Off

Penne with Oven-Roasted Broccoli – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I have been stalking the broccoli in my garden for more than two weeks. The weather in New England at this time of year is prone to wild mood swings -one minute it’s hot and humid and the next it’s cold and rainy again- and late spring temperature fluctuations can force crops like broccoli into maturity faster than anticipated. The minute yellow color begins to show up in the florets, the heads are over-ripe and losing flavor. When eaten straight from the garden, at its peak of freshness, the taste of home grown broccoli is one of the best arguments for retiring yet another stretch of lawn. So, early every morning I’ve been obsessively checking to see if my first broccoli crop is ready. And guess what? Here it is!!! Those dingy, yellowy heads of broccoli at the grocery store can never compare to this!

For a great initial harvest, and continued production of smaller side-shoots for weeks, be sure to fertilize your broccoli plants with fish emulsion or another organic product once a month. Broccoli performs, and tastes best when grown in compost rich soil with even and ample nitrogen content. Warm temperatures, full sun and steady moisture will give the fastest and highest yield . Spring planted crops usually mature right about now and summer-yielding crops will continue to produce florets even in the hottest months. A fall crop may be direct sown in the garden anytime in late spring or early summer. Although broccoli starts transplant well, this must be done with care as the seedlings do not like root disturbance. I plant my broccoli a little more than a foot apart in a compost and leaf mold enriched bed with companions such as radish, carrot, lettuce, and nasturtium. Mulching roots will help keep them cool, and prevent accidents with a hand weeder or hoe…

Oh so fresh…

Freshly harvested blue-green florets…

Steamed, blanched, sauteed or baked; I love broccoli just about any way, including raw, straight from the garden. I have tried many broccoli recipes , but one of the tastiest I have found is Ina Garten’s Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli from her Back to Basics cookbook. Since trying this garlicky-parmesan seasoning blend, I have taken to adding the cooked vegetables to pasta for a quick and satisfying early evening meal, or as a cold pasta salad dish at lunch. As is usually the case with Ina’s recipes, there’s nothing time consuming or complicated about this method of preparation. This dish is fast and easy to make, and the simple flavors of lemon, basil, pine nuts and parmesan perfectly enhance fresh broccoli, but never overpower it’s wonderful fresh flavor…

Penne with Oven-Roasted Broccoli and Parmesan

Based on Ina Garten’s Back to Basics Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli Recipe


Ingredients: Serves 4-6

8                  cups fresh broccoli florets, washed and prepared

4                  cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin

1 1/2           teaspoons kosher salt

1/2              teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2                  teaspoons lemon zest

2                  tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4              cup pine nuts, roasted to golden brown

1/3              cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

2                  tablespoons chopped basil leaves

1 lb              dry, packaged penne

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees while preparing broccoli. Arrange the broccoli florets in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a pan. Sprinkle garlic on top of the broccoli, then coat with olive oil, (about 5 tablespoons) salt and pepper. Roast in oven 25 minutes or until cooked and a bit brown on the tips of the florets.

While broccoli is roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the penne according to package directions. Drain and reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

Remove broccoli from oven into a skillet or pan and toss with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, parmesan and fresh basil. Add a bit of pasta cooking water to the pan and slowly add the penne, stirring as you go, tossing well on low heat to combine flavors. Remove and serve in shallow bowls with extra parmesan.

Roasted broccoli may also be served as presented by Ina Garten in her Back to Basics cookbook -without pasta- as a simple and delicious side dish.

Almost High Summer…

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Is It Time Yet? Getting a Jump-Start on the Vegetable Growing Season………. {Plus a Special Anniversary Give-Away}

April 7th, 2010 § 18

Herbs and vegetables acclimating to conditions in the great outdoors before planting. A process known as “hardening off”…

Well here we are in early April, and it’s finally almost-but not-quite-growing-season. What, you say, is she talking about? Why, haven’t you heard of almost-but-not-quite-growing-season? You see, this is the time of year when people start to go a little crazy in cold climate gardens. They load up the back of the car with six packs of warm-weather plants from the local greenhouse, and when they bring them home, sometimes they take unnecessary risks. If frost isn’t an issue in your area, then you have little to worry about. However in the Northern regions of the country, new gardeners can be easily seduced by a week of warm weather in early April; tempted to plant out their tender crops too soon. Just the other day, while talking with my friend Daisy at Walker Farm, I mentioned that I’d overheard some folks planning to till their soil and plant the vegetable garden. Daisy, who is an amazing horticulturalist specializing in greenhouse growing and plant propagation, noted the same thing: it seems that the unseasonably warm weather in New England is tempting some gardeners to plant out the sunflowers. Whoa there partner! Check on your last frost-date before turning those little seedlings out into the cold world! Over the years, I have learned to bite my tongue when it comes to handing out unsolicited advice to strangers. But there are no strangers here! And I must be direct with new gardeners, coming to The Gardener’s Eden for a bit of advice. Perhaps you live in a warmer climate, south of zone 7, and if so, you can probably afford ignore my worry-warting, (somewhat anyway). But if not, given the gardening frenzy developing out there, I feel I should issue a warning: please be patient and don’t plant warm weather crops too soon!

Getting a jump-start on the growing season is smart gardening practice in cold climates. However, it’s important to be prepared and protect both your plants and your soil. If you have mulched your vegetable beds, and/or covered them with black plastic, your soil will likely be warm and dry by now and you may begin adding compost and other amendments, and perhaps planting cool-weather crops like spinach. But first, scoop up a handful of soil and check on its moisture content. When you squeeze it, does it form a wet, mushy ball? If so, wait until the dirt just holds its shape when pressed, but then breaks apart into a texture resembling crumbly chocolate cake when you let go. If you till and turn your garden while the earth is still wet and mushy, you will risk compacting your soil. It’s best to wait till things dry out a bit more. Covering your soil with IRT, (infra-red transmitting), plastic will help warm and dry your soil and keep down weeds – so if you are impatient, this is a product worth investing in for quicker results. It’s also important for the soil to warm up enough for seed to germinate. For cool crops, like peas, spinach and radishes, this date is quite early, (as soon as soil is workable), but for other crops, such as cucumbers and squash, it’s important to wait until the last frost date. A soil thermometer is an inexpensive tool, and a worthwhile addition to your garden tote. Use it to match soil temps to the guidelines on the back of seed packets, or charts available online, (see below for more)…

Turning green sand, leaves and compost into recently uncovered raised beds. To the right, wire mesh for snow peas is embedded into the mounded soil…

It’s always important to test your soil’s pH and nutrient levels in spring, and again in fall. If you need some information about testing your soil, click back here to my post on the subject from last year. The best time to amend garden soil is in the fall, but if you need to adjust your pH, get on that right away, as it takes awhile for the soil’s natural chemistry to adjust! Adding compost, and perhaps green sand, (a natural soil conditioner), is the first thing you will want to do when your soil is friable. Deep, loose soil is key to growing good produce – particularly root crops. Using a garden fork, work compost into the top layer of soil, loosening the layers with a rocking motion as you go. When your soil is thoroughly dry, turn it again  – ideally with both a shovel and a fork-  removing any rocks and/or weeds. When you have prepared the soil to your satisfaction, rake it over smoothly and let it rest and warm….

Turning in compost and edging the raised mounds…

If your have been gardening for awhile, you likely have some activity going on in the garden already. In my own garden, some perennial herbs, garlic greens and cold-crop seeds are already emerging. After pulling back mulch this weekend, I was pleased to see that the sorrel, (Rumex acetosa) , is looking -and tasting- fine! New green growth is showing on the chives, mesclun greens are popping up everywhere I look, and the ‘Spanish Roja’, ‘Music’, ‘German Red’ and ‘Continental’ garlic -planted last fall- are all off to a good start. Crops in the hoop-houses are about to be re-sown, and I am just now planting my spring snow peas, (hoop-houses and row-covers are two excellent choices for protecting early season crops). Some gardeners start peas very early, but I have discovered that seed started in early April catches up very quickly with peas started in March, with no delay in harvest. Earlier sowing wasn’t possible this year due to the wet weather, but peas are a fast-growing and reliable crop to plant throughout spring. I like to sow a few rows in succession, insuring a steady supply of peas throughout the spring and early summer.

I will be writing much more about vegetable gardening as the growing season progresses. But for now, my best advice is to start slowly. Test and amend your soil as soon as it is friable. Check your seed packets for optimum soil temperature, and sow when the soil consistently reaches this level. Be sure to harden off seedlings, (in a protected outdoor place during the daytime), of all kinds before transplanting. Need help with last frost dates? Seed Planting Dates? Check with the Old Farmer’s Almanac online. The Almanac is a great resource for all growing region…

Uncovering sorrel, protected by leaf mulch, in the herb garden

Emerging Mesclun Mix…

Spanish Roja Garlic emerging in the raised beds, with a new layer of compost added…

Beautiful emerging mesclun mix on a rainy day…

Presenting The Gardener’s Eden Anniversary Give-Away # 1

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible (10th Anniversary Edition)

I’m a professional gardener, so I need to have an extensive library of horticultural titles on hand, from the simple to the complex. And, as the result of my workshops and coaching work, I recommend many books to gardeners throughout the year. But there is one vegetable gardening book I recommend above all others: Edward C. Smith’s The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible is simply written, scientifically sound, and beautifully organized. This is the perfect book for vegetable gardeners of all levels. If you don’t own one, I suggest you flip through a copy at your local bookstore – it’s a gem. And at the end of this month, one lucky reader will receive a complimentary copy of the new, 10th Anniversary edition of this vegetable gardening classic from The Gardener’s Eden! Today and every Wednesday though out the month of April, in honor of our first anniversary, The Gardener’s Eden will be giving away a special gift to one reader. In order to enter, correctly answer the question below in the comment section of this article. Be sure to post your answer prior to the 12:00 pm Eastern Time cut-off. Only one entry per reader, per give-away please. The winner will be chosen at random from all of the correct entries received, and will be notified by email. Gift recipients will also be announced both here on the blog and on our Facebook Page. So now…

The first question is, (this is an easy one): What is the name of Michaela’s garden? In order to enter the contest, please post your answer in comments here on the blog, (not on the Facebook page). All email addresses will remain unpublished and kept in complete confidence. Your email will only be used to notify you if you have won. Good Luck!

* In order to provide each reader with an equal chance to win, your comment/ entry will not appear until 4/8*

Entry Deadline is Midnight, Eastern Time, 4/7/10

***

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Greeting the Wolf Moon on a Chilly January Night with Warm, Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup…

January 31st, 2010 § 3

Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs

Watching the full moon rise is something of a ritual for me. I note the waxing and waning lunar cycle on my calendar and I pay close attention to the forecast as the moon grows full. Lunar myths and legends have always fascinated me, and I usually to refer to the monthly moon by its name. Although April’s Pink Moon and Autumn’s Harvest Moon tend to be my favorites, I am also quite fond of January’s full, Wolf Moon. When the weather is clear in mid-winter, as it has been for the past few days, evenings in Vermont can be spectacularly beautiful. Sub zero temperatures may be difficult to bear, but they also create some amazing atmospheric conditions. With a warm bowl of soup and a dramatic celestial show on the horizon, I’ve come to embrace and even enjoy my cold nights on the mountain…

January’s Full Wolf Moon

Dried Grass and Staghorn Sumac on a late afternoon in January

Cinnamon colored remnants in sparkling snow at sunset

Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs

(makes approximately 4 quarts of soup)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup garlic cloves, (about 12 cloves), peeled and chopped to a paste in a food processor
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk (2% or whole, as you prefer)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream (optional – you may sub all 2% milk for low fat diets)
  • 6 cups peeled and cubed yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 whole, fresh sage leaves, (plus extra for garnish)
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped thyme, (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large stock/soup pot over low heat. Add the garlic paste and carefully cook until the paste begins to turn gold, stirring constantly. Add in the vegetable/chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, add herbs and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and simmer for 20-30 more minutes.
  3. Scoop out the bay and sage leaves, and carefully pour batches of the hot soup into a blender, (do not overfill the blender!). Puree each batch until smooth and return to the saucepan. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Add milk and cream and simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes.
  4. Pour the soup into bowls, and garnish with fresh thyme and sage leaves. Serve with a side of fresh, crusty bread.

***

Article and Photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is copyright The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not repost or republish photographs or text excerpts without permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

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A Thousand Mothers Set into the Earth: It’s Garlic Planting Season…

October 17th, 2009 § 3

‘German Red ‘ garlic bulb from Wild Shepherd Farm, Athens, Vermont

The ancient Greeks and Romans often called garlic the ‘stinking rose’, and in eastern Europe it is sometimes referred to as the ‘Russian penicillin’. Allium sativium has been praised for it’s worth by many as ‘better than a thousand mothers‘; blamed for bad breath, gas and indigestion, and hailed as a cure for a wide variety of ailments from warts and blood clots to bacterial infections and even cancer. Steeped dramatic folklore, garlic frequently makes an appearance in campy old vampire films as repellent for various creatures of the night, including Count Dracula himself. I sort of like that bit – maybe I will hang a braid on my door for Halloween. But beyond its fantastic ability to ward off the un-dead, for most of us, garlic is simply a delicious culinary staple we can not do without…

Music garlic in bin at festivalAllium sativum, ‘Music’ spills from a harvest basket in Simple Gifts Farm booth        The North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival

Two weeks ago I drove to western Massachusetts and spent Sunday, October 4th tasting and buying garlic, talking with local farmers, and rubbing elbows with the talented artisans at The North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival – or as the locals prefer to call it, ‘The festival that stinks’. The Garlic and Arts festival began in 1999 at the Seeds of Solidarity Farm, and is now an annual event held at Forsters Farm field every October in Orange, Massachusetts. This entertaining agricultural, food and craft fair has grown in size and scope over the past decade to become one of the most popular harvest festivals in western New England. Although I originally planned to spend both Saturday and Sunday at the event, October 3rd was something of a wash-out, so my time was somewhat limited. Next year I hope to spend two full days at the festival in order to enjoy it more fully. This year I focused mainly on the agricultural booths selling gourmet garlic, but I did connect with several New England artisans I plan to feature here in the coming months.

Autumn is garlic planting season, and I decided to plant some gourmet cultivars in my potager this fall. While at the North Quabbin festival, I spoke with two garlic growers and sampled the tasty cloves offered to visitors in their stands. My first stop was the, (North Amherst, Massachusetts based), Simple Gifts Farm booth, where the garlic was displayed in overflowing harvest baskets alongside beautiful, organically grown produce. I sidled up to the ‘Music’ garlic plate and read the informational tag:  “Music – Strong producer. Robust, minty flavor”. Mmmmm. The fragrance was pungent and indeed, the taste was slightly minty as I let the clove linger on my palate. This was described as a hardy, soft-neck garlic, (the hardneck varieties have stiff, prominent stems). I put a few bulbs in a bag and moved around the stand looking for the farmer. When I spotted him, he was busy with another customer, so I continued to sample. A jolly, conversational fellow asked if I had seen any ‘German Red’, “It’s the best” he said, “but I don’t see it here“. When the curious shopper noticed my notes, I explained my mission and he suggested I try the ‘Doc’s German’. What a find! The taste of this stiff-neck cultivar is delightfully mild and nutty, and the cloves displayed were large and golden colored. Into the bag with that tasty variety! My final purchase at the stand was recommended by the farmer, Jeremy. I asked if he had a smoky flavored garlic he could suggest for cooking. The variety I sampled, ‘Continental’, is known for retaining its true flavor in high heat. Indeed, the flavor was subtly smoky with a nice sharp finish. He did not have ‘German Red’, but suggested I check at the booth next door.

As it turned out, the next stand was occupied by Wild Shepherd Farm, based in my home state of Vermont. Athens, VT farmers Emily Amanna and David Hassan grow many gourmet varieties of garlic, but specialize in the hardy stiff-neck cultivars which they grow in their sustainable fields. I tasted many of the samples on display in their booth, including the delicious, elusive ‘German Red’ and the hardy ‘Spanish Roja’ varieties I chose to take home to my garden. ‘Spanish Roja’ is an excellent roasting garlic. Raw, the flavor is quite sharp and spicy, but once subjected to heat it mellows and deepens. I am looking forward to experimenting with it in my kitchen. ‘Spanish Roja’ also has a reputation for hardiness and good production – qualities I seek out in this cold climate and short growing season. The wildly popular, and elusive ‘German Red’ cultivar develops a rich, warm flavor when sauteed in olive oil or butter. Raw, the taste is spicy, almost on fire with classic garlic flavor. This variety has become very hard to find, and was sold out in most booths at the festival…

'Spanish Roja' Garlic‘Spanish Roja’ garlic bulb from Wild Shepherd Farm, Athens, Vermont

Continental Garlic‘Continental’ garlic bulb from Simple Gifts Farm, North Amherst, Massachusetts

German Red Garlic‘German Red’ garlic bulb from Wild Shepherd Farm, Athens, Vermont

Doc's German Garlic‘Doc’s German’ garlic bulb from Simple Gifts Farm, North Amherst, Massachusetts

Music Garlic‘Music’ garlic bulb from Simple Gifts Farm, North Amherst Massachusetts

Mid autumn is the best time to plant garlic in New England. I planted my bulbs this weekend. In warmer North American regions, garlic may be planted through early winter. Wherever you garden, it is essential to give garlic bulbs a month or two to establish before the ground freezes. Plant garlic in deep, well-drained, fertile soil, rich in organic material. Garlic produces best in full sun but many varieties will tolerate light shade. If you live in a very cold climate, ask a local grower which varieties are performing best in your region. For this reason, I believe it is wise to purchase your garlic bulbs locally whenever possible. Supporting local farmers not only feels good, it supports your overall community and makes sense for you as a gardener. Produce grown locally has been tested by your neighbors and proven successful, so it’s a good investment.

Each Year, I Reserve Some Garlic Bulbs from the Harvest to Replant in Autumn. I Also Add New, Tasty Varieties Found at the Garlic Festival.

Garlic bulbs should be  gently separated into cloves and planted approximately 2″ deep (that is, pointy end up, for you beginners), 6″ or so apart, and watered thoroughly. Good garlic growing companions include lettuce, herbs and beets. When planning your potager, if you practice companion planting methods, it is best to avoid positioning garlic near beans or peas. Crop rotation is always good agricultural practice, so avoid following onion crops with garlic in your vegetable plots.

Break Firm, Good Sized Garlic Bulbs into Cloves and Plant As Described Above with Pointy End Up!

Once planted, if you live in a climate with cold winters, it is very important to mulch your garlic bulbs with straw or ground leaves to protect them from cold. This mulch will be pulled back in early spring, (usually mid-April here), and replaced with a generous layer of compost. Garlic should not be over-watered, and weeding by hand is necessary to avoid damaging the shallow bulbs. Garlic scapes (the curly tips) are traditionally removed in summer to direct energy toward bulb production. Garlic scapes are a gourmet’s delight (read more about using scapes here). Garlic Harvest tends to coincide with the maturity of onion crops here, but in case there is any doubt, look for falling tops and yellowing of the lower leaves. Pull garlic bulbs up with a garden fork and cure them for about two weeks in the sun, (or in a dry protected space like a covered porch). The method is very similar to curing onions, (see my recent post on onions here). Once dry-cured, garlic will store very well in a cool, dark, dry place for up to six months, (depending upon the variety, hard-neck garlic tends to store better than soft-neck varieties).

Wild Shepherd Farmstand at the Garlic FestivalWild Shepherd Farm tasting booth at the Garlic and Arts Festival

Wild Shepherd Farm CardSupport your community farmers – Buy your garlic locally when possible !

Has all of this talk about garlic left you craving the rich, nutty flavor of this delicious herb? Well then, check out this fantastic recipe for Richard Olney’s Garlic Soup, originally from The French Menu Cookbook. I just recently found it on one of my favorite food-blogs, 101 Cookbooks, and it is delicious. What perfect timing! Many thanks to the talented Heidi Swanson for her fantastic food blog and her always perfect, vegetarian recipes.

Here’s to The Thousand Mothers ! Happy planting…

Article and photographs ⓒ 2009 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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