the garlic tree

Money doesn't grow on trees. Neither does garlic, but let's pretend it does.

It's slated to near 100 degrees on the Front Range today, the kind of high July heat that signals the tops of the white onions and shallots to fall and the garlic scapes to shade green-to-brown, all indicators that harvest time has come.

This morning I saw some friends off to the airport very early, which left me caffienated and raring to go at 6:30 a.m. The morning was soft and cool, in the mid-60s, and the sun was liquid gold on the broad leaves of the Lazarus Vine—my name for the table grape vine that would not die (a long story best told elsewhere).

I pulled most of the allium varieties out of the soil. I'd stopped watering them a couple of weeks back to get them to mature and cure a bit. They responded nicely to this insult and by this morning, the onions bulbs were bulging up like the spawn of Moby Dick breaching a soily sea. I pulled about 30 of them out and lay them, stalks over bulbs, in a narrow row. They'll finish curing there for a couple of days and then I'll store them just a little while, until the time is right.

And it is all about timing. The onions have to wait until the chili peppers and tomatoes ripen. The good news is that it won't be long.

And what does it all mean? It means a bowl of fresh pico de gallo (beak of the rooster), one of the great treats of summer. The process goes like this:

  1. Molcajete—if you don't own one of these lava-stone, mortar-and-pestle bowls, buy one.
  2. Garlic—cut the top quarter-inch off an unpeeled whole head of garlic so the cloves are just exposed; place it cut side down in a hot cast iron skillet and roast it until the cloves are soft, maybe 5 minutes. Squeeze the garlic into the molcajete and grind it to a paste. Don't worry if the garlic sticks to the sides, as it is seasoning the molcajete and will be absorbed into the salsa later.
  3. Chilis—roast and/or chop a couple hot chilis and grind them into the paste.
  4. Tomatoes—roasted or fresh, grind a de-seeded tomato into the paste, which will now look more like a sauce.
  5. Onions, Tomatoes, Chilis—rough chop these to taste and add them but don't grind them down. The amounts are open to your taste and preference.
  6. Cilantro—add to taste.
  7. Salt & Pepper—add to taste.
  8. Lime—a little squeeze will do.
  9. Tortilla Chips—cut a short stack of corn tortillas in eighths and quick fry them in safflower oil; let them drain on a paper towel, then salt both sides lightly. Or, be a lazy ass and buy some bland ones at the store, but understand you are marring what could be a transcendent gustatory experience.
  10. Serve the pico de gallo with a side of fresh guacamole and a pitcher of margaritas.

Then, be happy. Like this bee in the blossom.