Garlic harvest yields supreme pesto, day starters  

August 23 [Thu], 2012, 12:30
Garlic harvest yields supreme pesto, day starters

Everything has its season; for me, this is garlic season. In early to mid-August each year, I harvest 60 to 100 garlic plants, each bulb or head with six to eight cloves. I tie them in bundles of 10 and hang them in a cool, dry location – whole plants, including the tops.

A month later, I trim off the tops, but I’ve been told that curing them with their tops on allows certain nutrients to flow back into the cloves from the foliage. If you haven’t picked your garlic, you should. If you wait too long, the outer skin of the garlic will break down, and the garlic will not store as well.

And what, you might fairly ask, does one do with 100 heads of garlic? For starters, I will save the best 15 heads or more for re-planting. I don’t buy seed garlic; I use my own, year after year. Planting time is not until October, but I select the best garlic and set it aside for planting. That means, over time, that I am developing strains that are best for my soil and climate. Now, after 25 generations of doing so, I grow garlic that is well-adapted to my specific conditions.

Then, there is pesto. I planted a bed of basil about 4 feet square this spring from plants I started indoors. Recently, I cut most of that basil about 8 inches from the soil line and processed it all at once for pesto – the plants will grow new leaves for other uses later. I’ve tried a lot of recipes, and have decided this one, below, is the best. I used pine nuts for it, instead of walnuts or almonds, even though those nuts cost me $22 a pound.

But six batches of pesto only used 3 cups of pine nuts, which translates to about $8 for the nuts. This is a treat, and will last for months if spaced out between meals and not consumed on toast with tomatoes for breakfast, which is what I did the day after making pesto.