The calendar has changed to October and overnight things seem different. The temperatures are noticeably warmer, the dreadful wind and rain of the past months – for all intents and purposes seem behind us and the freshly cut grass smells sweet, the birds are over enthusiastically chirping in the trees and the blossom petals are falling like confetti at a party. There is a new hope in the air that there is a new season around the corner and that new season is going to be great.
Sometimes you just want to soak up that feeling and put it in a bottle and keep it forever to remember just how wonderful that small window of a new season can be. Well I am all about making memories, and if we don’t do enough deliberate celebrations throughout our year then it passes us by in a blur and we can’t remember one month from the last and one year from the last and a lifetime disappears in the blink of an eye. Well – not round here. We are always looking for reasons to find joy and revelry. And what better way than with spring onions!
Before I go too far forward, I need to give you a little back story. Brother the Chef is on an amazing journey travelling all around the world experiencing some incredible things and in our autumn he phoned me to tell me about this most incredible festival he had just experienced in Catalonia in Spain where the spring is marked with the roasting of spring onions called Calçots, and where there was much merriment had by the local Spanish people. On a whim he suggested I grow some because it was really cool.
There isn’t much exciting going on in the garden in the winter months other than the usual broccoli, and broad beans doing nothing except growing, so I was up for something a little different. The thing is… these Spanish spring onions are specific to the region of Spain and not possible to get in our neck of the woods. So based on the vague description of the particular variety from Brother the Chef, I finally settled on a Japanese variety that promised the fattest stems and planted them in my garden.
Just the other day I was looking at my garden and at the big fat spring onion spears and thought “I’ll need to do something with these… but what?” I’ve never been to Catalonia, let alone a spring onion festival. Then coincidentally Brother the Chef announced he was returning home for a break from all the travelling! This was fabulous news and he soon had the honoured position of conducting the Spanish Spring Onion festival, in our Kiwi garden with Japanese spring onions! And Oh what a wonderful night we had.
Under the warmth of a sunny late spring sky, good friends gathered and we harvested all the onions and threaded them on to a wire, and lay them across the hot coals of a glowing fire to roast and char. While the spring onions were cooking Brother the Chef also shared another tradition associated with the original festival half a world away, and that was to drink red wine from a special vessel not dissimilar to a watering can. Unfortunately we didn’t have an authentic jug – however we did have a watering can that did the job perfectly.
Once the onions were charred they were pulled from the wire and wrapped in newspaper and left to steam and become tender and the smoky juices mingled through the stems. Brother the Chef also prepared for us a delicious romanesco red pepper sauce and as the sun went down on a lovely day in the garden, we all gathered around and peeled the charred outer from the onion and revealed a sweet tender centre that was dipped into the romanesco sauce and gobbled up in a wonderful sticky mess of Spanish goodness. Then with satisfied bellies, mucky fingers were rinsed in a big bowl and crushed lemon balm leaves left our hands feeling refreshed. The experience was so much fun, and as the kids raced about in the late night air after having their fill of roasted marshmallows, it was decided next year we will have to do it again – only with more spring onions…. And so begins a new annual tradition at our place!
Come again soon – I still need to show you what is in my greenhouse!
Sarah the Gardener : o )