More Food Fresh from the Garden
With everything that’s happened this year, we haven’t been able to make as much of the garden as we would have liked. Really, we’d hoped to have finalised the purchase of our land by now and have had access over the summer – to set up “camp” and start to get some vegetable beds ready for autumn planting. That was not to be, unfortunately. A downside of the delay, however, is that we’d been happily neglecting the vegetable patch we’d cultivated in our neighbours garden, planting a few things here and there but nothing too permanent and nothing that would be ready later in the year, as we thought we’d already be on our way! What we had got going were a few “easy” plants that were started earlier in the year, to be ready about now. One such plant was garlic.
I’ve grown garlic before, although without much success, but the principle of taking a single bulb, planting individual cloves, and being rewarded with as many whole bulbs as cloves, still appealed. I picked some up at the local Gamm Vert – alongside some onion sets – and for 3 euros, the same price as a small bunch of organic garlic, figured there was nothing to lose.
Possibly they went in a little late and consequently they were a little underdeveloped, but hey. The bed became quite overgrown but yesterday we decided to set to it because we needed the space to put in some baby leek plant that our neighbour had someone managed to pick up for free from a local market at the end of the day. She’s brilliant like that. We pulled everything up and I was surprised to find that many of the bulbs were more developed than I thought they would be. We do have garlic after all!
I chopped off the stalks, leaving the bulbs and put the bulbs aside to dry. That left quite a lot of greenery, which got me wondering – what could I do with the stalks? It turns out that the stalks, called garlic scapes, are an edible delicacy in their own right. People actually buy them at markets. They can be chopped up like chives in omelettes, added to soups, or – and the option I went for – made into pesto.
Oh. My. Goodness. I read various recipes, put a few ideas together and ended up with this: garlic scape, lemonbalm, and sunflower seed pesto. It was lush. Unfortunately, the two smalls both turned their noses up at it (to be be expected, so lucky for them I had put some plain pasta aside before adding the sauce) but I’ll definitely be making it again. In case you are interested to try it yourself, here’s the recipe.
It just so happens to be vegan because I decided to leave out the cheese. It actually tasted great with cheese but I decided to add this to taste afterwards, which I think worked well.
I’ve also added below the recipe for creamy onion soup, which I made after harvesting an entire bed of slow-growing (and fast bolting) onions. Again, they went in a little late so we decided to pull them up and make room for something else (in this case, tomatoes and courgettes.) That particular recipe went down a storm with my onion-hating daughter. I’ve no idea why, but she loved it!
Garlic Scape & Lemon Balm Pesto
10 to 12 garlic scapes. Mine were a little woody so I found the point where they snapped off easily and cut them from there, discarding the harder parts.
Two good handfuls of fresh lemonbalm (not very scientific, sorry!)
A cup of sunflower seeds
Oil – to taste. I used sunflower because I didn’t want to drown out the lemonbalm with olive oil. I would say use whatever oil you prefer.
A pinch of salt.
Grated cheese to serve (optional)
- Chop the garlic scapes into small pieces and add them to a food processor along with the lemonbalm (or blender, if you have one.) Whizz it all up until it’s finely chopped.
- Warm the sunflower seeds in a pan to release the oils then, when they start to smell but before they start to brown, add them to the mixer and whizz.
- Add oil, as necessary, to bind the contents of the food processor into a paste.
And that’s it! Serve with pasta and cheese, or use it however you like! The only downside of this recipe – unless you have a very diverse food market near you – is that you will probably have to wait until next year to make it again. Oh well.
Creamy Onion Soup
This recipe started off as a more traditional French onion soup, but when I looked at it and realised there was no way my children would eat it, what with all those bits floating in it, I decided to add a few ingredients, and the result was magic!
Small, young onions (I had a combination of white and red) and their stalks
Two cloves of garlic
- Slice the onions and add them to the pan with some oil. Warm them through slowly. You are trying to cook them to the point where there soft and sticky and brown. Cover the pan but stir them often and make sure they don’t dry out.
- When the onions are looking sticky, add some garlic and allow that to soften too.
- Add stock. I added enough to cover the onions (which is why you don’t need to worry too much about measurements – my kind of cooking!) I used chicken, because that’s what I had available, also my children prefer it to beef stock. You could just as easily use vegetable stock.
- With the stock added, cover the pan and get it all bubbling away. When it’s come to the boil simmer it for a couple of minute then turn off the cooker or take it off the heat.
- When the soup has cooled a little you can add the magic ingredient: fromage blanc. Add a couple of generous spoonfuls and stir it in.
- Finally, whizz it all up in a blender, or use a hand blender (as I did.) Once it’s a consistency you’re happy with, it’s ready to serve!
And that’s it!
If you make either of these recipes, please do let me know what you thought of them. Have you heard of garlic scapes before? Have you grown them? Drop me a comment!