Fleur-de-FirstTasteofSpring

We had a Picasso hanging in our garage all winter long. Well, bunches of them actually.

I’m talking shallots, not Cubism.Image

The flavor of shallots has been likened to a mild cross between garlic and onion. Shallots are versatile companions, as they caramelize with roasted vegetables or brighten flavors in a salad or frittata. But it is the staying power of Picasso shallots that wins them a place in my kitchen garden year after year. Even after the best hard-neck garlic has shriveled into dry, yellowed cloves or sprouted green curls, Picasso shallots are as crisp and crunchy and bursting with flavor as the day they were harvested.

Picasso shallots, Allium cepa var. aggregatum, have copper-colored skin and can be planted as bulbs in Pennsylvania in fall, usually by Oct. 15, or in April. I’ve planted in both seasons, but prefer to plant shallots with garlic in October so they are on the same timetable and the bulbs have more time to bulk up. I bought my first Picasso shallots from the Maine Potato Lady catalog, and since that first harvest have saved bulbs each year for planting. (Two years ago, when I knew I was moving from Kutztown to State College, I potted a bunch up in a flat and moved them with me, transplanting them right into my mother’s garden.)

ImageShallots love full sun and can be planted in rows 9 inches apart, with bulbs spaced every 4 to 6 inches. Separate clusters of shallots into individual bulbs just before planting and stand them upright in a shallow trench and carefully fill soil around them, making sure the tops remain uncovered. Mulch lightly with straw to prevent heaving in winter and to reduce watering and weeding in spring and summer.

Shallots are mature when their tops fall over. In the Mid-Atlantic, this usually occurs in July, whether fall or spring planted. Cure for a few weeks in a dark, dry place with plenty of air circulation (as with garlic), and store in a cool location with good air circulation.

Picasso shallots have a name that is hard to forget, and the ease of growing, storing, and using them in the kitchen makes them a gardener’s masterpiece. Laurie Lynch

First Taste of Spring Pasta

In just a week, spring has burst into Central PA. Daffodils and forsythia are in full flower, the garlic and shallots showing their green leaves, and my chives needed a haircut! So, I came up with this meal last night—super easy, and pretty, with the bed of green spinach pasta, pink salmon nestled in, and snips of spring green chives on top.

1 6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts

5-6 Picasso shallots

1/3-1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese

Sprinkling of red pepper flakes

A few wedges of salmon filets, one per person

Lemon juice

Garlic-infused olive oil

1 lb. spinach pasta

First cutting of fresh chives, right from the herb garden

Put first four ingredients in a blender, liquefy, and chill.

Broil salmon squeezed with lemon juice in pan basted with garlic olive oil. Boil pasta until al dente, drain, toss with artichoke sauce, and place individual portions on plates. Top with broiled salmon wedge and sprinkle with fresh chives. We served this with slices of freshly baked Gemelli Bakers (State College) Fennel and Raisin bread. Manga!

In the Garden: Planted sugar snap peas along the split rail fence this weekend and sowed tomato, red pepper, eggplant, basil, and red okra (new for me) seeds inside. Lots of germination activity in the milk jug greenhouses but, alas, no action in the parsley jug…my bad luck with germinating parsley continues.

Back On the Bike: This past week I found out how out of shape I am from the long winter and dodged a few thunderstorms, but riding to and from work is still a joy. I’ve also been doing a little research. In this country, between running errands and meeting friends, the average woman drives 30 miles a day, I read in Women’s Health magazine. Why not try to have one car-free day a week?

In the Netherlands, one-third of all journeys (commutes, errands, etc.) are made by bike; for those over 65, one-fourth of all trips are made by bike.

 Ride a Bike To Work: Wakes you up. Winds you down. Saves the planet.

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