Stupid Vegetable Question

By July 5, 2010 Uncategorized 6 Comments

Okay, all you readers (particularly in LJ land!) perhaps you can answer a question for somebody who grows a lot of stuff for bugs and birds to eat, and very little (so far) for humans…

My vegetable experience is limited. Last year I did herbs, tomatoes and a couple kinds of peppers, and they all grew like lunatics, and there was way more than we could eat. (I also did cantaloupe, which grew like a lunatic, produced a bunch of melons, and we never did get one during the fifteen second window between unripe and rotting on the ground from over-ripeness…) This year, the same suspects–the cantaloupes volunteered–a couple more herbs, an Egyptian walking onion, and on a whim, I stuffed a couple of cloves of garlic in the ground a few months back.

Today, needing garlic, I pulled up a head of it. I was not expecting anything much, because the internet had informed me that garlic needs cold before it gets tasty. I was expecting a bland flavor akin to elephant garlic.

My garlic was approximately the size of a large peach pit, and when I peeled off a miniature clove and took a cautious nibble I went “BWHUUUUUHHHH!” and exhaled a wave of garlic intensity that caused cows to die a mile away.

Small it may be, but bland it is NOT. (It’s actually quite tasty, once you get past the bit with the death.)

Same thing with the jalapenos earlier this year, actually–Kevin roasted two on the grill, ate one, said the flavor was wonderful for the first tenth of a second and then the burning eclipsed it all. “They’re…delicious…” he wept, reaching for the second one, sweat pouring off his bald head like a man running around a field full of inexplicably dead cows.

Is this because it was a really dry spring and I didn’t water them enough? (I mean, they didn’t DIE…) Is the intensity of flavor caused by dryness hence smallness hence concentration? (Are vegetables at the supermarket just incredibly insipid?)

I mean, they’re delicious, just…damn, those are intense! Should I not be leaving the vegetables to fend for themselves quite so much?


  • Stuff you grow yourself just plain tastes better. (: Part of that is that it spends no time sitting on a truck, no time sitting in a store … just straight from your yard to your table.

    It may be that they’re a tad underwatered, because some food plants can be more concentrated (and some things will get bitter) if they are underwatered. But it’s probably just the huge difference in freshness. (:

  • twistedchick says:

    Yes, it’s because you didn’t water the garlic. (I used to grow it.) Garlic likes sweet soil more than heavy clay, neighborhood maples rather than oaks and azaleas. It takes nine months for garlic to mature — and if you want it to grow to the size that it’s capable of growing, you do need to water it. It’s got to get the water from somewhere; if nature doesn’t supply it, it’s very possible for garlic to dry right up. Smallness does indicate concentration, also a difference in minerals in the soil and a need for more nourishment.

    Garlic is completely mature and ready for use when one of two things happen — the stems and leaves harden, or they fall over (depends on the variety of garlic. At that point, you can pull it or dig it up; if you want to be fancy as well as practical you can braid the stems together and hang it in an attic or crawl space (in the fall) and the area will be free of insects sheltering for the winter. But you can plant it any time and it can mature any time during the year — doesn’t have to be fall.

    Veggies do need tending. You can pick canteloupes that are nearly ripe and let them ripen off the vine, like tomatoes and (to some degree) cucumbers, though you want cucumbers to be immature (ripe yellow cucumbers taste awful. Leave them to nature, and you won’t get nearly as much back from them.

  • dragonarium says:

    Vegetables are like domestic animals, they need our attention (weeding, watering) to thrive. Your garlic and peppers will do better with regular watering.

    If you want the flavor of the jalapenos without the pain, cut them in half (wearing gloves so you hands stay capsaicin free) and pull out all the seeds, along with the white pith that is attached. All the HOT is in those bits. You can now chop, serve, grill, stuff or whatever and get all the great flavor without the burn.

    Your vegetables taste better because they are picked ripe from the vine, and they are varieties that are meant to be grown for immediate consumption. Most of what is in the supermarket is picked unripe (almost all apples, tomatoes, bananas, peppers, most fruit) and stored at near freezing temperatures, to be gassed (ethylene causes them to ripen, or at least color) before they are sent to the shelves.

    Supermarket produce is not bred for flavor, it’s bred for durability. It needs to survive long storage and multiple trips over thousands of miles and still look like (often not taste like) a vegetable. Flavor is secondary, which is a real shame, because people would eat more produce if the garbage in the supermarket tasted like like the magic you produce in your garden (farmers market are a close second).

  • Uzuri says:

    I might recommend ROASTING your fresh garlic if you wish to not kill any more cows XD Also cuts down on heartburn.

    Part of it’s water, part of it’s cultivar, part of it is lack of shipping/sitting on shelf time, part of it’s love and blood and sweat and tears.

    But a lot of it is just that bloody fresh garlic is really freakin’ strong.

  • Teaspoon says:

    Adding to what others have said, it seems that the dryer you keep them, the hotter capsaicin peppers are going to be. If you prefer them milder (but still tasty!), try to keep them from drying out.

  • Michelle says:

    Thanks for the laugh! 😀 We have just harvested the garlic that we planted last fall – our first time growing garlic – and my husband is absolutely in love with the results. One variety was damaged by wire worms, but the rest formed perfect heads. I’ll pester him to do a garlic post soon. . .