Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

Our backyard is a bit of a Northern California jungle. It is steep and sloped and there are funky terraced parts, weird brick walls, and lots of over-grown plants. When I look outside I see a mess. It doesn't look like the neat, flat, green backyard I grew up with in Salt Lake City. When M. looks in the back yard he sees a Trader Joe's tiny rosemary bush he planted that grew and bloomed, a huge lavender plant, tiny spouts of chard that grow (despite the fact we don't care for them nearly enough), a tiny fig tree that produces only green figs, an avocado tree that never blooms, and lovely, tall calla lilies. He also sees green garlic.

We have enjoyed green garlic all spring. M. pureed it and stirred it into rice, made a green sauce to scoop over white fish, and even chopped up the tiny white blossoms and used them in a divine, faintly garlicky vinaigrette. We were in love with green garlic.

So it seemed like a good idea to suggest a green garlic harvest. The pureed green garlic could easily be frozen and put into the freezer for future use. It seemed like a brilliant plan. M. rolled his eyes a bit when I suggested it, but was happy to comply. He went out to work in the yard, and I stayed in, reading the Sunday New York Times, staring out the window, and drinking coffee. Then I got in the shower.

When I got out, I noticed there was a a small trail of dirt that dribbled from the front door to the kitchen sink. And what was in the kitchen sink and piled on the counter tops of the kitchen? Piles and piles of green garlic.

"This isn't even all of it," he said, bringing in another armful. I watched as small clumps of dirt and bugs settled on the clean floor and counter tops. Was this really my idea?

But now it was too late to look back. We picked through the green garlic, washed it, and left it to dry in batches on the dish rack. Then M. cooked it down (as you would with any green) and pureed it. I filled bag after bag and popped them all neatly in the freezer.

We've used some of it, but the spring time produce is starting to be so abundant there is really no need. But later in the year I think we'll welcome something dainty and green and fresh to remind us of our first spring in San Francisco.

It is also an excellent reminder for us city folk to look a little more carefully at our green environment. Since discovering green garlic I have seen it everywhere: in the Mission, poking out of small plots of ground that don't look as if they could produce anything at all. Of course, I probably wouldn't want to eat green garlic picked from a curbside on Valencia Street, but the point is, it is possible to be an urban harvester.

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