Garden Glory: April Gets Its Afterburner On

The mint in my garden sprouted last weekend.

Seeing those sprigs made me think of Oasis Farm in Middletown, where autistic adults learn to farm year-round. They grow and harvest vegetables; milk goats and make cheese. They grow grains from which they bake bread in the farm’s wood-fired oven.

It reminded me that April is National Autism Awareness Month.

Restaurant Nicholas, the NJM Top 25 restaurant in Red Bank, not far from Middletown (both in Monmouth County), buys produce from Oasis. It’s a mutual admiration society. The restaurant and the farm benefit from each other’s skills and talents. It’s the way farm-to-table works throughout New Jersey these days, and it’s the biggest win-win I know.

I picked a few sprigs of mint, gave the leaves a quick chiffonade, and tossed them in a salad. Soon my mint will be joined by the earliest of Jersey’s arugula in salads that will be made from all-Garden State ingredients.

Then garlic scapes, another joy of spring, will enter their brief season.

Scapes will inspire me to follow the lead of Peter Santero, the chef who directs Passaic County Technical Institute’s culinary education program. He told me last week about a garlic scape pesto he is teaching his culinary team ro make.

No ordinary team, PCTI’s culinary competitors won the New Jersey State Culinary Championship in their division and will travel next week to Charleston, South Carolina, to compete in the National Championships, Thursday and Friday, April 28 and 29.

Garlic pesto! Definitely to be used in a salad with the first of the spinach, which farmers say they expect to be out in force next week.

Perhaps a drizzle of that pesto will enhance the flavor of Jersey fava beans, which should reach local markets at the tail end of this month.

Asparagus is already starting to appear on restaurant menus, though it’s not yet Jersey-grown.

But soon–very soon–our own asparagus, radishes, green onions, parsnips, chard, beets and green onions will be in markets and on our tables.

Spring’s rebirth is upon us at last. I cannot wait to taste its glory in Garden State restaurants.

Please tell me which vegetable or fruit grown in New Jersey you most eagerly anticipate. Comment below, or email me at [email protected]. Thank you!

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