by SB Margaret Osha
I wish that my husband loved garlic as much as I do. I’d be happy if he liked garlic even just a little bit! Garlic makes an odorous statement that lingers on the breath and even emits through the skin for up to 48 hours after consumption making it hard to eat and enjoy garlic when your partner doesn’t. Harold McGee, author of Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells, says that diallyl disulfide is garlic’s signature compound, along with a complex mixture of sulfur volatiles, that are activated as soon as the bulbs are cut or crushed. As pungent as garlic is, this plant has won the hearts of many of us. If you’re a garlic lover like I am, garlic is as fun to grow as it is delicious to eat. It’s relatively carefree and pest free, at least for now. According to gardening expert Charlie Nardozzi, the leek moth, a pest from Canada, has been found in the Burlington area. Garlic is planted in the fall and pops up, stately and green, early in the gardening season. A bed of garlic lends interest and beauty to the early spring garden before much else is green and growing.
During mid to late October, I prepare a bed for my garlic by loosening soil and working in a generous amount of compost to promote good bulb growth. Each year, I save my biggest and best bulbs of garlic to replant. I carefully break these bulbs apart, leaving as much papery skin on each clove as possible. I plant in a rectangular bed and space each clove six inches apart and six inches between the rows while making sure to plant them with the pointy end of the clove up and the flat side down. I plant each clove into the soil about two to three inches deep.
Tomatoes are also an important crop. I usually put in six to eight tomato plants, and they will yield all the sauce that we need for the year. Growing tomatoes can be tricky; they can be persnickety and like just the right amount of water. Blossom end rot and blight are a couple of common issues that are driven by too little water or too much water. I find it very important to get a good layer of mulch down around the plants because water splashing up onto their leaves is a real problem when it comes to blight. I’ve read that it’s recommended to apply mulch around the tomatoes by July 4 at the latest. Tomatoes are also heavy feeders and like plenty of composted manure and fertilizer.
The garden is winding down now that we are entering into the last half of September. The corn has been removed from the garden along with the tomato plants. The onions have been pulled. I’ve broadcasted buckwheat seed over the fallow spaces, and if the weather holds out, perhaps it will be up a few inches before we have a killing frost sending it back into the ground making an excellent green manure crop.
I’m waiting for the results of the recent soil test that was sent to UVM.The fall is a good time to amend and balance the soil. The potatoes are still in the ground taking advantage of ground storage as long as possible. It’s looking like a good potato year which is surprising considering the dry conditions this summer. Celeriac is a newcomer for me this year. I put in a few plants to try, and I’m loving the big, round, gnarly looking roots that taste very much like celery, making it a great addition to stews and soups. I haven’t tried mashed potatoes and celeriac, but I’ve heard that this is a delicious rooty combination. I like the ease of growing celeriac as it is hardy and pest free.
Tomato Sauce Three Ways
This version of roasted tomato sauce is my own creation and yields a thick, deep-flavored sauce. Roasting concentrates the flavors and sweetness of the tomatoes resulting in a stellar spaghetti and pizza sauce.
4 lbs. tomatoes, cored and quartered
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup dried oregano
½ Tbsp. maple sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash tomatoes well, core and quarter them (cut larger tomatoes into eighths) into a large bowl. Add olive oil, dried oregano, maple sugar, sea salt, and toss to mix. For a little fun, experiment with your own herb and spice mixture!
On a large baking sheet, approximately 16” x 22”, spread the seasoned tomatoes in a single layer. In a small bowl, toss unpeeled garlic cloves in some olive oil and add the garlic cloves to one corner of the baking sheet. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Supervise the cooking process carefully during the last ten minutes of cooking time. The tomatoes tend to caramelize quickly around the edges of the pan. When the tomatoes have finished roasting, the garlic will be roasted as well. Even if you have to omit the garlic this is a nice rich tasting sauce. If my husband liked onions, I would roast some onions and add them to the mix. Allow the baking sheet of goodies to cool long enough to handle and squeeze the garlic from its skins onto the tomatoes. Put everything into the food processor and give it a few pulses. Put sauce into one-quart labeled containers. Transfer to the refrigerator to cool before putting it into the freezer.
My second favorite tomato sauce is a recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Marcella Hazan was an Italian cookbook writer and received the James Beard Award for Lifetime Achievement. The butter and the onion give this sauce a rich and creamy tomato finish; it’s really delicious. I tried making the sauce with and without the onion. The onion contributes a lot of flavor and I think it actually helps to thicken the sauce. Even without the onion, the butter transforms the tomatoes deliciously into a silky-smooth sauce.
2 lbs. fresh, ripe tomatoes or 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes
5 Tbsps. butter
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt to taste
For best results, blanch tomatoes to remove skins. (I skip over this step of removing the skins and use a few pulses in the food processor once the cooked tomatoes have cooled.) On the stove, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Submerge the tomatoes, a few at a time, in the boiling water for a minute or so. They are ready to remove from the boiling water when you notice the skin crack. Drain, and when they are cool enough to handle, the skins can easily be removed. Cut the tomatoes up into coarse pieces.
In a saucepan, add the prepared tomatoes, butter, and onion. Cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady, simmer for 45 minutes or until it is thickened and the fat floats free from the tomato. Stir occasionally, breaking up any large chunks of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Salt to taste. Hazan recommends removing the onion and saving it for another use.
This is another tasty Genius Recipe for marinara sauce in five minutes. I applied this sauce to a homemade pizza and my husband loved it — amazing considering the generous amount of garlic. Perhaps there is hope after all!
3–4 medium cloves of garlic
2 lbs. of garden tomatoes or 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes
¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
½ tsp. sea salt
A handful of fresh herbs such as basil and parsley
Zest of one medium lemon
Finely chop the garlic letting how much you like garlic be your guide. The recipe uses a 28 oz, can of whole tomatoes, drained, saving the juice. Squeeze the tomatoes with your hands creating small chunks. I used 2 lbs. of fresh, garden tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes. If you use fresh tomatoes, blanch to remove skins. After the skins are removed, squeeze out the juice. Save and set aside.
Starting with a cold pan, coat the pan with the olive oil and sauté the garlic over low heat. It is important to add the olive oil and the garlic to a cold pan. This helps to infuse the garlic flavor into the oil. When the garlic is soft and fragrant, add the prepared tomatoes, pepper flakes (optional), and sea salt. Turn up the heat and let the tomatoes reduce and thicken slightly. Add a handful of fresh herbs and let them poach in the sauce. (I removed the herbs from the finished sauce.) If the sauce is looking too thick, add some of the reserved tomato juice. The secret ingredient to this sauce is the lemon zest giving the tomato a jolt of life and a boost of vibrancy without tasting lemony.
This reads like a delicious Ode to Garlic. Delightful post!
Looking through the Neruda in my bookshelf and Kindle I find Odes to Tomato, Wine, and salt but not to Garlic. This post could be an Ode to Margaret’s Tomato Sauce.