Garlic is the spine of all my cooking, the backbone of the flavors in my repertoire. I can't make pasta or roast a chicken without it, and I can't even imagine soups, stews, salad dressings, stir-fries, sauces or dips without the assertive, sweet, you-won't-forget-me flavor of fresh garlic.
But it wasn't an ingredient I gave much thought to until one day about 20 years ago, a friend brought me a few heads of garlic from her garden. I thought it an odd gift, garlic being so inexpensive and plentiful. But the skin popped off to reveal creamy white, firm, fresh pungent cloves. It smelled unlike any garlic I’d ever purchased—it smelled like the earth. The cloves were juicy when I chopped them. I was making my go-to pasta sauce that night (olive oil with sautéed chopped garlic, parsley, basil and capers), when I decided to add a few extra cloves of the garden garlic. I’d been making this quick sauce for years, but suddenly it was transformed. My Tuesday-night pasta sauce had a new depth of flavor. It was rich, heady and almost buttery. At that point I knew. I'd be growing garlic in my own garden.