"I can make minestrone any day of the year from my garden."
Because crops ready for harvest change month to month, the minestrone changes, too. "But that is one of the pleasures of being a gardener-cook; as crops change in the garden, you alter your recipes to match." A representative recipe for his minestrone is given on page 214.
After a lifetime of cooking what he grows, Dr. Pellegrini has settled on a combination of vegetables that do well for him in both garden and kitchen. Some of the vegetables he grows are not widely available; for a list of mail-order nurseries that sell them, see page 256.
Beans. Dr. Pellegrini's specialty soup starts with a thick base made with "horticultural" beans. These produce excellent shelling or dried beans. Fast-maturing, short-season varieties for mild-summer gardens are 'French Horticultural', 'Vermont Cranberry', and 'Wren's Egg'.
Dr. pellegrini harvests the beans when the pods start to wither. The beans inside are mature, but still tender. They can be put in a container and frozen with no perceptible loss of quality.
For seed beans, Dr. Pellegrini let th epods dry on the vines until they start to split. He picks them without removing the beans and stores the pods in a cool garage. Rainfall doesn't hurt drying beans if dry weather follows. But if rain doesn't let up, you should let the pods finish drying indoors.
Garlic and onions. Garlic is the common kind (Allium sativum); Dr. Pellegrini feels that giant garlic (A. scorodoprasum) is too mild. For onions, he plants sets of the yellow type in spring, helping himself to scallions adn tops until bulbs mature in late summer. Both onions and garlic are braided and stored hanging from nails in his garage.
Herbs and other seasonings. The broadleafed 'Italian Parsley' provides a peppery note to soups and other dishes from July through early winter. Dr. Pellegrini collects its seed every second year (it's a biennial) and replants to keep a supply coming.
He enjoys fresh basil through the summer until frost nips the plants, then he minces the leaves and stores them in jars of olive oil. Every spring he replants this tender annual.
A key seasoning ingredient, celery leaves are harvested from summer until frost. "I don't know why they strip off the celery leaves at grocery stores--that's the best part," Dr. Pellegrini muses. The plants are put out in spring, and stalks are ready to eat in November.
Potatoes. Dr. Pellegrini prefers small, thin-skinned potatoes. New potatoes can be harvested when flowers appear, mature spuds dug when tops die down.
Carrots. Two crops are planted a month apart in spring and tops are picked for use as seasoning throughout summer.
Cabbage family. Leaf vegetables from the cabbage family give Dr. Pellegrini's soup much of its character. He uses whatever is ready to harvest, whether savoy cabbage (his favorite), collards, or kale.
Plants or seeds labeled as kale are commonly the curly-leafed types. They look like frilly, nonheading cabbages and have a mild, cabbage-like flavor. Popular varieties are 'Dwarf Blue Curled' and 'Dwarf Siberian'. Collards, a smooth-leafed kale, are fairly heat tolerant; 'Georgia' and 'Vates' are most commonly available. You can harvest collards and kale leaves just as you need them.
These cabbage family members taste sweeter after they're nipped by frost. He grows two crops: one is sown in early spring for summer and fall harvest, the other in early summer for winter and spring harvest.
Tomatoes and zucchini. These go in each spring for harvest through summer. When frost threatens, green tomatoes are brought indoors to ripen.
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|Date:||May 1, 1984|
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