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Gardens, Grills & Garage Sales


Gardens, Grills and Garage Sales

It’s here. Well, I’m pretty sure it’s here. School is out so that means summer. I’m not sure what happened to spring, but regardless, officially, there’s only three weeks left of it. A native New Mexican told me, “It’s never safe to plant until after Father’s Day.” We did it anyway. Seeds in wet paper towels, and dishes of water, moistened potting soil with a few starts indoors, carefully transplanted shoots and sprouts into the warmest parts of the yard, some close to the house for safekeeping, are all efforts to get those fresh, delicious veggies to their farmer’s market debut. I’ve been poking around town trying to get a photo or two, find out the real goods on who’s growing what. “One more week and we’ll be ready,” has been a common answer. “We want it to look really good, abundant.” The thing about wanting your gardens and farms to look splendid for photos is that now you’re too busy for anything, but the task at hand. Covering “starts” and small bunches of lettuce and radishes, closing hothouse doors when the temperatures plummet below freezing and then a day later, opening them up when again as the mercury climbs towards eighty degrees. Thinning, and replanting, feeding, watering, composting and then finally planning a harvest schedule. It doesn’t seem to matter if you have several acres or a garden in your yard, everyone is doing the same shuffle. I’m looking forward to the Farmington Growers Market opening June 10th, to grab up the first farmer goods for sale in the San Juan County summer of open markets.

What shall we do with these fresh delights? Grill’em! The first vegetables of summer are usually very tender and small so they lend themselves to easy grilling. You don’t really even need to slice them up. Just a scant film of oil will seal in moisture and produce a crispy, blistered skin. Roasting whole produces a sweeter tasting result. Careful though, you never want to just bite into it, it can burn your mouth badly. Guess how I found that out? I think it’s a good time to resolve yourself to an increase in vegetable consumption. It looks like it will be a productive year and there are markets around the county four or five days a week by July. The key is planning and multi-tasking. Wash and package produce as soon as you get home. It will stay better that way, and now you’ve bonded. Plan meals ahead a little. I like to get my pre-seasoned grill going as soon as I get home and cook them up. Once they’re done, stoke the fire a little or turn up the propane and throw on some meat, if that’s what you like or leave the fire low and throw on some stretched pizza dough, or homemade tortillas, grill on both sides, careful not to burn and then chop the veggies and add cheese. Or, have chicken. Again.

Another multi-tasking trick is to grill while you sell. Yeah. Garage sales. No, don’t sell the food, unless it’s your own raw harvest. (The environment department will be knocking on your door if you try.) But sell the sizzle. Have your grill going while your garage sale is happening. When your sale is over dinner will be done. I’ve had one garage sale, of my own, in my life. Now I can say I’ve done it. The thing is, it’s exhausting, even if you find it fun. San Juan County may have more garage sales per capita than any place I’ve ever lived. Believe me, you’re competing with pros here. Fire up that grill in the morning and throw some onions, herbs, (just for the aromatherapy benefits) and other goodies on there and people will smell it for blocks in every direction. This is kind of a little trick, as well. In the restaurant biz, we say, “If you want customers, make yourself something to eat, or put everything away, and they’ll show up.” (Of course the obvious way to have a successful garage sale is to advertise it in Talon.) I’d love to go to garage sales this year, but I’m cooking in the morning and going to market after that. I may send a scout though to buy the things I always buy, odd flatware, cooking utensils, old corning ware, and odd stemware. These are all things that are great for dining al fresco and my guests love it. I like it better than paper or plastic and if it breaks or gets lost, well, it was only 50 cents.

Have fun this season, eat well, enjoy the great weather, be safe, and please support your local farmers.

Chef Amber Michelle is a CIA educated chef, cultural explorer, and the cook, cleaner and bottle washer of Holly Ester’s Tasty Toffeebread, a wholesale cookie company, and gruvitacos, a seasonal taco trailer, in Navajo Dam.

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