The allium family is an important part of our homegrown food supply. These fantastic members of the vegetable family add flavor to most of our cooking. It seems that life would be bland without them.
Three members of the allium family are part of our annual-harvest garden this year (we also have chives and perennial onions, but we’ll talk about these in another blog post): allium cepa (ordinary onions), allium tivum (garlic), and allium porrum (leeks).
We bought onion sets up at Metcalf’s in Cornish. They come in little brown paper bags for about $1.29 a bag and we got some red ones and some white ones. All of these were planted toward the end of April when it is supposed that frosts are done with here in Maine. We planted them an inch or so apart and about 1/4” below ground with the root end downwards, and then thinned them as they grew, using the pulled ones as scallions.
Recemtly the tops turned yellow and fell over, indicating harvest time. So we pulled them up and spread them out on a home-made drying table in the shed (nothing fussy- just a sheet of pegboard supported by a couple of sawhorses).
After a few days of drying the larger onions were braided (you can see in the pic one of these bunches loosely braided), and the smalller ones put into mesh bags. Simple as can be. The smaller ones are great cooked whole in stews (and we just had a short rib stew with onions, carrots, garlic, and burgundy wine, ...yum!). Looks like we won’t give the supermarkets much onion business this year.
Garlic (allium sativum) cloves were planted last fall- one clove turns into a bulb as it grows. Since late spring we've been using garlic scapes in many recipes. A garlic scape is the long stem shooting up from the bulb in the ground. They form an interesting curly shape and have a bulblet near the top. Trimming these tops helps the plant use its energy to increase the bulb size.
After the onions were off the drying table, we harvested the garlic and they are drying in the shed. The bottom leaves had been yellowing which is how we knew they were about ready to harvest. The grocery store won’t be getting much of our garlic business this year. We use whole garlic cloves in our slow cook recipes. I’ll tack on a simple chicken recipe as one of our simple-cooking examples.
Our leeks (allium porrum) are a few inches tall and it will be some time before they'll be ready to harvest. We planted leek seeds this year on Earth Day. The leeks have been thinned and we'll be adding soil around the stalks to blanch them, as this increases the white part. Leeks will be a regular part of our diet this fall and winter. They are great in stir frys, soups, and by themselves sauted in a little butter. -G.H.