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An ode to aromatics.

September 6, 2008

Is there a better scent in all the cooking world than of onions, garlic and celery sauteing in a rich butter bath? I think not.

Homegrown Walla Walla Sweet, celery, garlic, and a special splurge (a shallot)

Homegrown Walla Walla Sweet, celery, garlic, and a special splurge (a shallot)

I make a lot of soup, and after all this time, my mostest favoritest part—and I have a lot of favorite parts—is still those first five minutes of all that sizzling goodness, when sweet diced onions, fresh minced garlic and crispy chopped celery meet, greet, heat and swap spit with a big glob of bubbling butter (real butter) to fill the kitchen with that delectable, pungent aroma that promises good things to come.

Even better is this time of year, when the vegetables are sourced out of my own dirt, plucked by my own hand. I love growing these vegetables, particularly onions. There’s little that’s more satisfying in the garden than poking fragile sprites of greenery into the ground in the spring, and, mere months later, pulling out huge bulbs that necessitate the use of a trowel and both feet for leverage and balance, lest you fall over backwards on your ass after those tenacious roots suddenly give way to brute force. (I also love growing heirloom tomatoes, but that is a labor of love that consumes 7 months of the year, from seed sowing in March to the October tear-down of monster plants over 8 feet tall, 5 feet in diameter. Each. Onions have a simplicity that deserves appreciation).

This past May, I happened upon a producer at the farmers’ market selling celery transplants. Hm. Celery. I really never thought about growing it myself, as I read a long time ago that cranky-pants celery hates hot weather, and Cincinnati (Zone 6) might be north of the Mason-Dixon line, but, man, it does get hot up here (it was 95 degrees just yesterday … in September). But, on impulse, I bought four plants anyway. Into a large container they went, filled with rich, loamy soil (I went the container route so I could move it from sun to shade and back, as necessary).

It's good being green.

It's good being green.

Well, it’s September now, and with little more than the occasional relocation of the pot and regular side-dressings of fish emulsion, I’ve got a happily-producing celery crop. I decided not to blanch any of the plants, which produces a stronger celery flavor, and a prettier, greener stalk. After some research, I also discovered that you don’t have to harvest the entire plant (the way they’re sold at the grocery), but rather you can just slice off a stalk as you need it, and the plant will magically regenerate (I say “magically,” because I never seem to see the new growth, but the plant gets bushier and bushier every time I turn around).

Better still, my favorite go-to reference book, The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, by Edward Smith, says I can bring the container indoors come winter and enjoy celery long after the garden has gone to sleep.

Good stuff.

More yummy goodies (softneck garlic, left, and Walla Walla sweet onions) fresh from curing.

More yummy goodies (softneck garlic, left, and Walla Walla sweet onions) fresh from curing.

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