Sunday, April 11, 2010

Onions, garlic and chives, oh my!

From the Country…
There is nothing better than planting onions in the cool springtime earth. One of my favourite vegetables to grow is alliums. Onions are part of the Lily family, Liliaceae, whose other tasty members includes leeks, garlic, shallots (the head of the family, in terms of flavour), chives and asparagus.

I personally could dine with this family for every meal but I would probably live a solemn life with a bad case of halitosis. A firm belief of mine is, that every good recipe starts with one or two of these pungent allium partners. My Auntie Ann used to work as a bank teller and the lady who often worked next to her would complain when my Aunt ate onions/garlic the night before. My Auntie Ann would explain about having to eat her onion-laden meals when she wasn’t working the following day. I would have eaten more and wore a garlic wreath around my neck. My Grandmother talks of a cooking show she used to watch were the chef wouldn’t date a woman if her cupboards were missing onions and garlic. I always laugh when she tells me the story because I totally understand. The waft of onions and garlic in a skillet makes me instantly hungry.
When I came across beautiful sets of multiplier onions at the feed store, I couldn’t resist taking them home, digging a trench and plopping these hopefuls in the soil. After planting the onions, I spent time gazing at the garlic, newly emerged from the soil. We had planted the garlic in the fall and every year I wait patiently for the greens to break ground. I wandered over to the chives to see how far along they were. Still tiny but coming, you really can’t rush Mother Nature, give them a week or so and we will be in chive business. Chive salad dressing, baked potatoes and chives, scrambled eggs with chives… Some people revel in planting bulbs for a colourful display of flowers but what really excites me is pulling a ripe garlic from the ground, drying out a crop of shallots, baking a creamy dish of leeks, snipping chives on top of a fresh salad and a hot skillet of asparagus and garlic scapes. Viva spring! Welcome back alliums!

“The kitchen, reasonably enough, was the scene of my first gastronomic adventure. I was on all fours. I crawled into the vegetable bin, settled on a giant onion and ate it, skin and all. It must have marked me for life, for I have never ceased to love the hearty flavor of raw onions.” James Beard (1903-1985)

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