Mitch Lawson of Rise ‘N Shine Organic Farm in Calhoun is one of the farmers offering produce at the new Saturday morning Freedom Farmers Market at The Carter Center. Lawson has offered a community supported agriculture program for 10 seasons, with as many as 275 members, but hadn’t done a market in quite a few years. The new market’s location and farmer/vendor mix helped him decide it was time to set up a tent again.
Here at the end of March, Lawson will have collards and kale, and may be bringing lettuce, arugula, spinach, carrots, beets, Swiss chard, turnips, radishes and herbs to market. By early April, weather permitting, he’ll have garlic for sale — garlic in the form of garlic scapes, the long flower stalk of hard neck garlic plants.
Lawson prefers a variety called “German White,”which he finds grows well in this climate, making big cloves with great flavor.
“Garlic is an awesome crop. We planted about 300 pounds of garlic, maybe over two-thirds of an acre, and expect we’ll be harvesting about a ton of garlic to dry and sell as heads. It grows easily, and you plant it in October when you’re not in a rush to plant everything else,” Lawson said.
The plants are well mulched, so he doesn’t have to irrigate or weed his garlic rows. “We come back in June and pull the plants and cure them. You can store it at room temperature or hold it at 40 degrees and it will keep for months,” he said.
But before he pulls the plants, he harvests the garlic scapes.
These slender round stems with a small flower bud at the end may be so curly, depending on the garlic variety, that people call them “pigtails.” Lawson harvests these scapes as they appear, generally beginning in early April. He finds it’s a great way to extend the garlic season.
“We like to pull them out of the center of the plant to get as much of the succulent stem as we can. We’ve been offering garlic scapes as long as we’ve grown garlic. I tell people to chop them into little bits and use them just like you would cloves of garlic. They’re not quite as pungent so we like to put them in dishes about midway in the cooking,” he said.
Those 300 pounds of garlic will produce about 10,000 garlic scapes. Lawson harvests what he can, but after about three weeks, the scapes become woody and no longer useful in cooking. At that point, they’re cut down so the plants can concentrate their energy into making bulbs instead of flowers and seed.
Another way farmers extend the garlic season is to bring young green garlic plants, looking a lot like young green onions, to market. Both green garlic and garlic scapes can be used interchangeably to make pestos, chopped and added to salads or prepared like asparagus and grilled or stir fried.
For sale at local farmers markets
Vegetables: artichokes, arugula, Asian greens, beets, broccoli, broccoli raab, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, collards, endive, escarole, frisee, green garlic, herbs, Jerusalem artichokes, kale and kale florets, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mache, mushrooms, mustard greens, Napa cabbage, onions, parsnips, pea tendrils, radicchio, radishes, rutabaga, sorrel, spinach, spring onions, sweet potatoes, turnips
From local reports
The Spence’s Grilled Green Garlic
Hands on: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Chef Adrian Villarreal of The Spence created this recipe to highlight young garlic. You can make it with either green garlic or with garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are widely available at local farmers markets during their brief season. You can also find them at the Buford Highway Farmers Market, where they are called “garlic stems.” This recipe would be equally delicious with young spring onions.
The pickled ginger called for here is the ginger that accompanies sushi. It’s become widely available at many grocery stores. Calabrian chilis are dried Italian peppers that are almost as hot as habaneros. If you can’t find them, substitute sambal sauce to taste.
1 pound green garlic or garlic scapes, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, shaved very thin
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
Juice and zest of one lemon, divided
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon pickled ginger, minced
2 Calabrian chilis, minced
In a medium bowl, combine garlic, canola oil and pepper flakes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Set aside to marinate at least 15 minutes.
While garlic is marinating, in a small saucepan, cover sliced garlic cloves with water and bring just to a simmer. Immediately drain garlic and cool in ice water. Pat dry and put into a small bowl.
Make vinaigrette by adding sesame oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, sesame seeds, pickled ginger and Calabrian chili to the blanched garlic. Whisk together and set aside until ready to use. If you have extra lemon juice, save for another use.
When ready to cook, preheat grill until very hot. Lightly oil grates.
Arrange marinated garlic on grill and cook until just browned, about 3 minutes depending on the heat of your grill. Discard any remaining marinade. Take garlic off grill and dress with reserved vinaigrette. Season to taste and garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 298 calories (percent of calories from fat, 43), 7 grams protein, 38 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 15 grams fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 19 milligrams sodium.