When I was growing up we always had a veggie garden, although I have very little recollection about what was grown in it. Tomatoes I remember, and silver-beet and carrots, but not much else. What I’m almost certain of is it didn’t contain any garlic. This is because the diet of the average Aussie kid of Anglo Saxon descent in the 1970s was almost completely devoid of garlic. I say almost because I do have vague recollections of eating garlic bread. Now by garlic bread I’m not refering to a lovely Italian loaf brushed with olive oil and rubbed with garlic. I am of course remembering a French stick (oh so different from your average baguette) sliced, but never quite through, slathered in butter and crushed garlic and then baked. Such a dish (admittedly quite delicious) was usually found on pub menus as part of their ‘counter meal’ offering so I suspect I would have first had it as a ‘side dish’ alongside my pepper steak and salad bowl.
I blame this upbringing for my current failure to grow good garlic. What it doesn’t explain of course are my successes of recent years or indeed my father’s success this year. Looking at the picture below. Which do you think is my garlic? Which is his?
Clearly the one on the left is his, picked early it’s a hard neck variety whose scapes have yet to curl under signifying its ready to harvest. Nice green garlic as opposed to mine (a soft neck which should be well suited to Melbourne’s climate) which kind of looks like a slightly bulbous, particularly weedy, spring onion.
His has started to form cloves and has been used in a couple of dishes. It’s scape I used to make a mint and scape pesto to mix with broad beans and serve on olive bread. It’s cloves I used in a chicken pie. I’ll be lucky if I have anything left of mine once I’ve peeled off the dirty layers.
So what went wrong? Well I could blame it on Melbourne’s mild winter. Or perhaps next door’s eucalypts which shaded it for much of the average winter’s day. But instead I’ll blame it on my upbringing. OK so I’m clutching at straws. If you have a better theory then I’d love to hear it.