The New Green
Even the grumpiest of farmers, also known as my brothers, took a step back this week to look at the leaves emerging from the trees. It’s been a long winter and the green landscape is breathtaking. Yes, the ground is muddy and the corn was never harvested last fall because of the flooded grounds, but it’s good to take a few minutes to look around and listen to the birds sing before getting back to work.
In my case getting back to work is trying to break up the soil with my tiller. I’ve partitioned my garden off into sections. The soil changes from clay to sand and I’ve only been able to work on the sandy loam spots. The clay is utter muck and even my tiller won’t get through it. Forget about getting tractor in there.
I’ve been trying to get some of the early weeds out of the garden, too. I don’t use herbicides so I do a LOT of hand-weeding. Last year the weeds in the garlic patch got away from me and I’m trying to get a head start.
Garlic can stay green all winter. It’s a nice hardy plant and I’m trying to thin them out. The end of the 2008 season got away from me last year and I didn’t divide and transplant the garlic before the ground froze. Garlic likes a long, cold winter and space to develop larger bulbs. My garlic is a wonderful, hot, red variety from the old country and my CSA customers have been using the spring green garlic in soups and stir fries. The greens are so tender at this point that the whole, flat stem can be eaten. Later they get tougher but still work well in a soup stock. By that time the pre-flowering scapes emerge from the plants and those make an excellent pesto and allow the plant to continue developing a larger bulb. Actually, these garlic don’t develop a “flower” but instead have tiny “bulbs” at the tips that can be planted for more garlic greens.
Garlic is one of the crops my dad spent a lot of time teaching me about as a child. In Serbo-Croatian it’s called “beli luk” (white onion), not to be confused with the regular onion: “crni luk” (trans. “black onion”) or leeks: “praziluk.” I could combine all three in the spring into a pilaf dish, a sort of a Balkan casserole. It’s one of those dishes where you “just know” how much of each ingredient to add. Simply sauté the garlic greens, add rice to the frying pan, cook until the rice starts to turn brown (gives it a nutty flavor later), then pour into a baking dish. Add water (or stock) and salt and pepper to taste. Bake until the rice absorbs the water. Generally the rice to water ratio is 1.5 cup water to 1 cup rice, but I prefer 2 C. water to 1 C. rice. You can add carrots, celery, chicken, or any number of ingredients but generally this was a dish that we threw together after working on the farm all day. Add a roast, green salad, and good bread. . .