Though often overlooked, fresh garlic is abundant at many summer and early fall local farmers markets.
We take garlic for granted. It’s reliably in the grocery store year-round and doesn’t look much different from season to season. But according to Cher Smith of Bugtussle Farm, in Gamaliel, Kentucky, which offers CSA shares in Nashville, Tennessee, we should be paying more attention.
“There is absolutely nothing like fresh garlic,” she says. “We love it! And it is such a fun and satisfying crop to grow. This is our 25th year in a row growing it. We have grown a few different varieties over the years but our hands-down favorite is a variety called “Music.” It has nice large cloves that are easy to peel and have fantastic flavor. Garlic has a unique growing season, unlike any other crop we grow. We plant it in the fall and harvest it the following spring/early summer.”
And, despite what you might assume, none of it is sold “fresh.”
“Once harvested, we tie the plants into bundles and hang them in our old tobacco barn to dry and cure—usually about two to three weeks,” Smith explains. “If we have limited space, we have also snipped the garlic off the stalk immediately after harvest and spread it out on racks with good ventilation.”
Like most farmers, they snap off the “scapes” a few weeks before harvesting, which focuses the plant’s energy back into the bulb, plumping them up. In May, you’ll find garlic scapes in farmers markets around town. They are edible and can be used just like the cloves or like green onions with a hit of garlic.
Garlic in the kitchen
Garlic is the workhorse of the kitchen, sautéed with other aromatics for soups, stews, and sauces, or chopped raw for a pungent garlic kick in salads or spreads. The classic gremolata—a chopped mixture of fresh green parsley, raw garlic, and lemon zest—is used to top rich dishes for a bright kick. Garlic can be pungent and intense when left raw, or mellow and soft when roasted (Chicken with 40 cloves anyone?).
We have a few recipes for you to try both sides of the bulb. Toum, or Lebanese garlic sauce, is pungent and a great condiment on sandwiches. Tabbouleh combines the kick of garlic with lemon and parsley, which plays to its bright side. Cooked in chicken shawarma, it’s earthy and spicy.
Tips for cooking with garlic:
To break a head of garlic, bang it with a heavy object (we like to use a skillet) and the cloves with easily separate.
To remove the papery skin from the cloves, smash them with a knife and the papery skins will slip off.
To grate garlic, which works as minced garlic very nicely, use a microplane.
To roast garlic, cut 2 heads of garlic in half and place in a small skillet with ½ cup oil. Bake at 375°F until browned and soft, about 45 minutes. Spread on bread or use in sauces and recipes.
*This article comes to us from Edible Nashville.