Two decades later, it's early spring in Maine—cold and still raw, but the snow is gone. The first signs that my garden is alive and well are the small, green garlic shoots that sprout out of the mulch-covered earth. These are the garlic bulbs I planted in late November, the very last thing to go into the garden. Soon the shoots will grow to be at least a foot tall (looking like thin green leeks) and on top there will be scapes, the loopy, loosely spiral-shaped sprouts that appear at the top of the garlic plants in May. I'll use the garlic scapes (which have a subtle garlic flavor and the texture of a thick scallion) in spring salads, sautés and pickles. I'll stir-fry them with asparagus or green beans, or puree them into a scape pesto with olive oil, pepper, salt and pine nuts or almonds.
Then, in late July, when the green shoots start to wilt, I'll harvest the garlic. For each clove I planted in the fall there will be an entire new head of garlic.
Garlic-harvest day is a celebration in my kitchen. I set the heads to dry in the sun and then braid the dry tops of the garlic together to make bouquets that are beautiful and useful in the kitchen. I try to grow enough to last me through the whole winter, but it’s not easy. It’s hard to ration something you love so much.