Some of the most pleasant gardening and cooking chores are best in the late fall and winter, when the garden is quiet and the days are short and chilly.
Two of my favorites are easy enough: planting garlic and making soup.
This has been a mild December and the ground is not yet frozen, so there’s still time to plant garlic. Like other fall bulbs, it can be planted as long as the earth can be dug. Check the seed catalogs for availability of your favorite hard and soft neck varieties. The chore is always more pleasant on a sunny fall day, but homegrown fresh spring and summer garlic is worth the effort now, even if you have to bundle up to plant.
How to Plant Garlic in Winter
1. Dig a trench about four to six inches deep.
2. Break the garlic head into individual cloves just at the moment you are ready to plant.
3. Press the base of the bulb into the soil with the pointy end up.
4. Space the cloves three to four inches apart so you can harvest every other one for green garlic in the spring. The other cloves should be left in the garden to grow fat and full until harvested next summer.
5. Cover with rich compost-amended soil and label the rows.
Savory Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkins in storage that weren’t used to make pies for Thanksgiving can be used for something much less sweet. Savory pumpkin soup. This recipe works just as well with the hard shelled winter squashes like butternut, acorn, turban or Hubbard squash.
1. Cut off the top and clean out a medium sized pie pumpkin. Wash and save the seeds to roast and salt later.
2. Chop the pumpkin into large wedges. Don’t worry about peeling the rind; that will be done later.
3. Place the cut pumpkin chunks on a cookie sheet and roast at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.
4. While pumpkin is baking, cut up a large mild onion and cook in a heavy saucepan with a drizzle of olive oil until the onion is caramelized and soft, about 50 minutes.
5. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and cut off the soft rind and discard. Cut the cooked pumpkin into chunks and add to the sauted onions. Add 1/2 tsp. of coriander seeds and 1/2 tsp. cumin to the saucepan.
6. Add 4 cups of chicken stock and simmer for 1/2 an hour. When the pumpkin and onion is very soft, place all in a blender to puree. Return to saucepan and keep warm. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
7. Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese and chopped fresh cilantro at the table.