by Thea Rittenhouse
in the Napa Valley Register
It’s the time of year to haul out the dusty grill from the garage and start the season of outdoor dinners featuring fresh local produce shared with family and friends. In Northern California, Memorial Day weekend typically launches the barbecue season. However, in most years, summer crops are just beginning to ripen, so the chef has to get creative with the menu. Luckily, many spring vegetables at the Napa Farmers Market are great on the grill.
Late spring is one of my favorite times of year. I’m anticipating the abundance of summer fruits and vegetables growing on my farm, yet I’m still able to appreciate the last of the fleeting spring vegetables. Some of the best-tasting greens and root crops are at the Napa Farmers Market now, thanks to warm daytime temperatures and cooler evenings. As soon as daytime temperatures top 90 degrees Fahrenheit, these crops become scarce until fall.
The best part about these nutrient-rich spring crops is their versatility. For grilling, many of these vegetables don’t need much preparation at all, just a little salt and pepper. One of my favorite crops for grilling is green garlic. If you haven’t tried it, then you are missing out.
Green garlic is harvested when the garlic is still young and tender, so you can eat the whole stalk, including the leaves. It has a wonderfully mild, sweet garlic flavor that grilling accentuates.
In the Rioja region of Spain, the village of Puerta Munillo holds an annual festival dedicated to grilling hundreds of bunches of green garlic for the entire town to enjoy with local wine. The recipe below is adapted from this article (https://saborgourmet.com/la-fiesta-del-ajo-asado-en-arnedo/), which includes pictures from the festival.
Grilled green garlic is a fun and entertaining dish for your Memorial Day menu because it is messy and festive. Cover a small table with newspaper, grill up the garlic until the skins are charred, and serve to guests in a giant pile. The outside leaves should be charred, and diners peel those off and eat the soft interior right out of the stalk. Kids will especially enjoy the hands-on activity. For adults, grilled green garlic is best enjoyed with a glass of vino tinto (red wine), as is the tradition in Spain.
Grilled Green Garlic
Gauchito Hill Farm and others should have fresh green garlic at the Napa Farmers Market this week. Serve with warm bread and more olive oil. This amount is enough for 1 person.
4 stalks of green garlic, leaf tips and roots trimmed
Olive oil, about 2 teaspoons
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Salt to taste
Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub the green garlic with olive oil and season with herbs and salt.
Put the garlic stalks directly on the grill and turn them slowly as they char. When the skins are charred and the garlic head is soft, the stalks are ready.
To eat, simply peel back the outer charred layer; the inside will be creamy and sweet.
Thea Rittenhouse is part-owner of Gauchito Hill Farm in Capay Valley.
The Napa Farmers Market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the parking lot of the South Napa Century Center, 195 Gasser Drive, Napa. Vendors include many local produce and flower growers; fresh seafood and meat merchants; ready-to-eat fare; plus, other hand-crafted wares. Educational kids’ activities, chef demonstrations and nonprofit-organization booths add to the enriching, multicultural shopping experience. The market also participates in the Market Match program, doubling the value of CalFresh benefits purchasing power for all eligible food products. For more information or a schedule of upcoming events, visit www.napafarmersmarket.org