Whether you're a CSA devotee, a farmers' market weekender or consider ketchup a veg, we'll bring you fresh inspiration for how to prepare our local produce.
This week's harvest: Garlic
You might be surprised to know that garlic is one of the prettiest plants in the field. The plants have these purple-tinged flower puffs that line the rows. Underneath, of course, is a powerful bulb that puts all food it touches at our beck and call. Garlic makes greens glorious, bread and butter downright sinful and shrimp shake it's arse. Right now and for the next few months, you will be getting the freshest bulbs since they're in season here in the valley. Vamps, be warned.
When are they in season?
March through June.
Selecting, cleaning and storage tips:
Harvesting: We plant garlic here usually in the fall (about October/November) and then when we see small bulbs, we thin out the rows a bit and eat the garlic in its early "green" state when it's a bit more mild and when the cloves haven't quite formed yet. Then, when the tops start to die, we dig the bulbs out of the earth. Once they're harvested, they need some time to cure a bit (a few weeks) and then they can be tied into lovely braids or placed in a crate and tucked into an area that is cool and dark where the temperature doesn't fluctuate.
Selecting: If you're looking for garlic at the market. Look for full looking bulbs with tight paper around it. Sometimes at the supermarket, they can be moldy at the root end - don't pick those up. Storing: Like with all alliums, you want to keep it in a cool dark place that stays that way. I've seen these cloche type products at the gourmet kitchen supply but haven't tried any of them. If you don't eat the garlic fast enough, or keep it in its happy place, they'll sprout, dry up or otherwise crap out - so enjoy it early. Betcha didn't know that...the sticky juice within the bulb cloves is used as an adhesive in mending glass and porcelain in China. I know...fascinating. Garlic as a travel destination: Gilroy, CA has the Gilroy Garlic Festival every year and I have always wanted to go. This summer, as if you needed an excuse to get outta here, maybe consider heading south of San Fran this July to sample the goods, (including garlic ice cream) or even enter the cooking competition.
Getting the garlic stink off your fingers: rub your hands under water using something stainless steel. I swear it works.
Recipes: Remember when all the restaurants were roasting a whole head of garlic and serving it with your table bread? Why did they stop doing that? It was so delicious - tho' you might not get to make out as much as I you'd hoped to afterward.... It's also so easy to do at home. If you're too young, didn't go out or just missed that trend, here's how you do it: Roasted Garlic.
Nigella Lawson who is a fan of big flavor, has also been a big fan of taking shortcuts to make her time in the kitchen to a minimum. She uses garlic flavored oil when cooking. Instead of chopping up cloves for dinner each night, the flavor is already infused into the oil. Brilliant. Make some for your own pantry (don't forget to follow directions and store in the fridge): Garlic Infused Olive Oil.
As soon as the cukes are ready this summer, make Garlic Pickles.
Meatless Monday idea: Roasted Chickpeas With Garlic Feta and Mint.
Whenever I have a hankering for garlic at home, I always whip up Shrimp Scampi. I always have frozen shrimp and most of the rest of the ingredients so it's a great go-to at my house. Food & Wine has a nice one: Classic Shrimp Scampi.
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Chicken with 40 Cloves. Really is 40 cloves and really tastes amazing.
Are you salivating yet? What's your favorite way to eat garlic?
Jennifer Woods is a local food advocate with over 10 years working in the AZ food industry, and currently works for Crooked Sky Farms, a CSA produce farm based in South Phoenix.