Saturday, August 31, 2013

Plant Garlic Now

Summer's unofficial end is this weekend, with the Labor Day holiday, even though the autumnal equinox is a few weeks away. From now until about the middle of September is the perfect time to plant garlic and shallots for next year's harvest.

You can purchase seed bulbs of both garlic and shallots from many garden centers, but I just shop for mine at the local market. I select organically grown, large, healthy bulbs and, in the case of the garlic, separate them into cloves, planting only the largest ones. Do not remove the papery skin, which protects the cloves against rot. Just press them into prepared soil, spacing garlic cloves about six inches apart, and shallots about a foot apart. Keep well-watered until the weather cools down and growth slows in November. Add organic fertilizer to the planting bed, or side dress after the shoots emerge. Feed them again in the spring and once more when they are about a foot tall. Keep the growing bed free of weeds, which can severely limit production. They will be ready to harvest next July.

Fall vegetable starts will appear in garden centers this week. Now is a great time to transplant starts of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale. Lettuce plants can also go in the ground now, or you can direct seed for a row of cutting greens. September is also a great time to sow cilantro and chervil, two herbs that can add flavor to your cooking all winter. Growing either one in an unheated greenhouse or coldframe will assure a long harvest. Cilantro seldom does well in a pot, but chervil will grow into a specimen in a ten to twelve inch wide container. Keep both herbs well-watered if rainfall is insufficient, or they are growing under cover.

Our Plant of the Week on this morning's edition of "Garden Talk" was lilyturf, Liriope muscari. This is a tough plant for creating a border between a flower bed and a lawn, as grass has difficulty invading an established clump of lilyturf. Ideal conditions are rich, moist soil in partial shade, but this is a durable and tolerant plant that grows just about anywhere, yet remains non-invasive. A large number of cultivars are available, including some with variegated foliage, gold foliage, and flowers in white, pink, and various shades of purple. The size range is from about a foot tall to over two feet. Plants form clumps a foot or so across, and do not spread. Creeping lilyturf, L. spicata, is also available for use as a groundcover, as it does spread by underground rhizomes.

Among the most abundant veggies in the garden this time of year is okra, and frying is one of the favorite ways to enjoy it. You can cut down on carbs and fat by frying okra without breading. Breading okra was invented, possibly, as a way to spruce up pods that were a bit beyond their prime and therefore less flavorful than freshly picked. If you have okra in the garden, you can capture all the flavor by frying it without breading. After picking, simply wipe the pods with a kitchen towel and leave them at room temperature until you are ready to cook them. Do not wash the pods. This will encourage mold if they need to keep for a day or two, and if done prior to slicing will make the okra slimy.

Fried Okra
2 cups sliced fresh okra
1 tablespoon bacon drippings (optional)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
seasoned salt (recipe follows)

In a heavy cast iron skillet, heat the oil (with the bacon fat, if used) until it ripples and a small piece of okra sizzles as soon as it is dropped in. Dump in the remainder of the okra and cook, turning occasionally, until most of the okra pieces are as well-browned as you prefer. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with seasoned salt. Serve immediately.

Seasoned Salt
Combine 1/4 teaspoon each of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use a much or as little as you like on freshly fried okra, and store the rest in an airtight container.

No comments: