BEN ON GARLIC // the local food report

My friend Ben is pretty into garlic. Obsessive, you might say. He grows 50 varieties and estimates that he plants six or seven HUNDRED garlic plants each year on the tenth of an acre he's carved out on his family's property in East Orleans.

I should clarify: Ben doesn't farm for a living. You might know him as Dr. Chung: self-proclaimed Dentist-by-Day, Farmer-by-Night. He's originally from Taiwan, but he's lived on the Cape for a while—long enough to have six kids and become a regular at the Orleans Farmers Market. 

At any rate, this week for the Local Food Report, Ben and I talked garlic. He told me about when to plant garlic (now), how he likes to eat it (raw), and what varieties he likes best for the Cape. He's written a whole book on the topic: Grow Good Garlic on Cape Cod, which he's selling at his market stand. It's a superbly funny and very informative read.

In the meantime, in case you're itching to get some garlic in the ground, here's some info on what Ben likes to grow:

Chinese Pink: Ben says this variety comes about a month ahead of other hardneck varieties, so it matures in mid June rather than mid to late July. With white outer skins and pinkish inner skins, it's pretty, and has a nice mellow flavor too.

Russian Red: This hardy variety does very well on the Cape. It's got beautiful purple blushes on the skin and stores well into winter. It has a rich, musky flavor and is very spicy when you eat it raw. Ben likes it thinly sliced with some pan fried sausage. Yum!

German White: Excellent storage variety, and few but large cloves per bulb. Easy for chopping! Medium on the spice index.

Elephant: The name says it all. Big, big garlic! Ben's record is .86 pounds and about the size of a softball. Elephant garlic likes our cool northern climate and the flavor is pleasantly mild. 

It's time! Check your farmers market for seed garlic. Tomorrow's task around here is to get ours in the ground. 



Good morning! Let's talk about cocktails! 

It's not too early. You need to gather ingredients: bourbon. Hard cider (I like Downeast, from Boston). Bitters. Cherries (Luxardo!). And most importantly, honey.

My friends Ed and Teresa started keeping bees a few years ago. And this fall, I signed on as their beekeeping apprentice. (You can hear all about getting the hive ready for fall on this week's Local Food Report.) The plan is I'll follow them and the bees through the winter, spring, and summer until finally we get to the honey harvest, and hopefully by then I'll understand enough to start my own hive.

In the meantime, I'm already thinking about what we'll do with the honey. I've been substituting honey in recipes that call for sugar or maple syrup, to see what works and what doesn't. And last night we had a big hit: what I'm calling a Fizzy Bourbon Spritz.

It works like this. You put two dashes of bitters in a cup. You add a teaspoon full of honey, preferably very fresh, very runny honey. You stir until it's dissolved. You add an ounce of bourbon (or rye) and three ounces of hard cider and give it another stir. You add ice. You garnish with a cherry. You enjoy!

It's quite a nice way to end the day—refreshing, a little bit pink, and excellent sipped on the couch, in front of the first fire of the season. Hello, fall!


I actually used Bulleit Rye the first time I made this, but it's adapted from the Maker's Mark website, and it's good with a nice bourbon too. Make sure your honey is runny so it dissolves well.

2 dashes bitters, such as Angostura
1 teaspoon runny honey
1 ounce bourbon, such as Bulleit or Maker's Mark
3 ounces hard cider, such as Downeast
optional: a cherry, such as Luxardo, to garnish

Put two dashes bitters in a cup. Add the honey and stir until dissolved. Add the bourbon and cider, stir well, and pour into another glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry and serve at once.


CLAMBAKE // elspeth

Gather friends. Dig a hole on the beach. Load rocks. Load wood. Light it on fire.

Wait; eat oysters; drink beer. Three or four hours later, get a wheelbarrow and bring down the lobsters and clams. Remove the bags, the bands.

Dive for seaweed. Collect it in fish totes. Wet the tarp.

Layer: Hot rocks. Seaweed. Lobsters, clams, potatoes, sausage, onions. More seaweed. Tarp.

Wait; eat oysters; drink beer.

Then in a fury: fling off the tarp. Fill the wheelbarrow with food! Crack the lobsters! Melt the butter! Set the table, grab the napkins, get the plates and forks.

Eat with friends.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.