What better way to ring in the warmer weather – than in style.

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.

A humble spring onion is elevated to something magic at our place

A humble spring onion is elevated to something magic at our place

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!

Stringing the spring onion onto the wire

Stringing the spring onion onto the wire

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.

The smoky onion aroma is quite intoxicating

The smoky onion aroma is quite intoxicating

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.

Not long to go before we can try this amazing delicacy.

Not long to go before we can try this amazing delicacy.

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.

This is so worth the effort and the wait - including six months of growing ... a fabulous experience!

This is so worth the effort and the wait – including six months of growing … a fabulous experience!

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.

Thank you Brother the Chef for bringing a fantastic piece of the world to our Kiwi backyard.

Thank you Brother the Chef for bringing a fantastic piece of the world to our Kiwi backyard.

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!

And a long wonderful summer of incredible experiences has now commenced...

And a long wonderful summer of incredible experiences has now commenced…

Come again soon – I still need to show you what is in my greenhouse!

Sarah the Gardener : o )

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14 Comments on “What better way to ring in the warmer weather – than in style.

  1. What a great idea! Even though our fully enclosed garden is still awaiting 4 poles to be concreted in before we can cover the top (thus it is still “pervious” to the critters…) because the damp quagmire that is
    Serendipity Farm insists it isn’t time to concrete yet…I am starting to see the possibilities. The son-and-heir just got a job here in Tassie and I can see some amazing family get togethers over fresh gorgeous garden produce. We have a “hunt the asparagus” thing going at the moment. The birds have eaten the seeds from an ancient asparagus patch that my brother planted years ago when he visited my dad and have spred them everywhere. The first we know (most of the time) that we have asparagus is seeing the fluffy wafting ferns waving at us from strategic positions. I am going to map the fluffy tops this year. I am even going to use my new AutoCad skills coupled with Google Earth to do it! Next year we might not have spring onions but we will have asparagus. I bet it would taste almost as good as those spring onions wrapped in newspaper and dripping with smoky goodness and romanesco sauce (I was a cook in a past life 🙂 ). Life is good isn’t it? LOVE this post. Full of motivation for those of us still languishing in the mud 🙂

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    • Hi Fran. We discussed the possibility of adding asparagus to the menu next time and thought it would probably work well. Of course it wouldn’t be authentic, but neither is doing it in NZ with Japanese spring onions! Whatever works!
      Good luck with with your Google Earth AutoCad asparagus hunt! I hope you find loads!
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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      • I just went hunting and found a clucky chook on eggs! Sigh…more chooks! I would rather more asparagus thankyou very much! 😉

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  2. Hi Sarah, my dad lives in that part of Spain and I’ve experienced Temporada de Calcots many times. From experience I’d say the Calcots are nearer to a type of slender leek than a spring onion, very sweet and mild, so maybe try that next time. It sounds as if you had a very yummy time with the spring onions anyway, though – and the sauce sounds completely authentic!

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    • Hi Kate. Thank you for your advice. As it was a wonderful thing to do, next year I will put more effort into finding out more about it and trying to find the best seeds to use. I have considered trying a range of leeks and and spring onions to see which come out best as it isn’t possible to get the real thing here. But we are definitely doing it again. It is such a nice way to bring our friends together to start the season. I love it! (We even had ‘Spanish’ music playing in the background!)
      Cheers Sarah ; o )

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    • HI Elaine. This was such a fun celebration. It would be cool to go to a real one, but it is so far away and would cost a fortune. But our kiwi mock up is good enough for us and so much fun. I can’t wait to do it again.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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  3. Family Traditions are great. Best part of life is sharing food, wine and joy with family.

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    • Hi Anthony. Sorry about the late reply. I love creating family traditions. Some are loads of fun and stick, so we get to do it again, others are OK but wouldn’t be missed if we didn’t do it again. but the important part is doing it and that is where the fun is.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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  4. Pingback: Spring back in time | SARAH THE GARDENER

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