There are more than four seasons if you live in Maine, or just about anywhere in northern New England. There are the traditional four — summer, fall, winter, spring, and there are the add-ons such as mud season and Indian summer. As a gardener, I’d like to propose an additional season: The Season of Sprouting Vegetables, which begins right about now. It’s the time when all the carefully harvested and stored potatoes and onions, carrots and garlic start to grow shoots, sprouts and hairs, forcing us to eat them quickly and in great quantity.

Our large sweet onions were the first to start their decline, and we barely stayed ahead of them, but they’re nearly finished up now (although I do see one impressive green shoot making its way out of the storage basket), and the yellow keeper onions are doing well, with few losers in the lot. Potatoes have started to push out tiny nubs of sprouts, but a few meals of them will finish them off as well.

It’s garlic that presents the real problem, because the heads are not uniformly either good or bad. Within a sprouting or shriveling head there are often perfectly pristine cloves that can be salvaged, but you won’t know which is which until you crack apart the heads. Once the heads are breached, unfortunately, the cloves deteriorate even more rapidly. In the past I’ve gone through the stored garlic, taken the good cloves and chopped them into olive oil, to be stored in the refrigerator. The resulting garlic and oil are tasty, but really shouldn’t be kept for more than a couple of weeks. This method also uses up a lot of olive oil. For storage that will preserve your garlic longer, pickling it or roasting it and then freezing it are two safe, tasty alternatives.

For either of these methods, you want to use only good, firm, unsprouted cloves. Next, you’ll have to peel them, which is a bit time-consuming, but hey — it’s your yummy, organically grown garlic we’re talking about here, so worth the effort. My preferred peeling method is to lightly hit the clove with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Since we want to preserve whole cloves intact here, be careful not to smash your garlic. You’ll also need to have some canning jars and distilled vinegar on hand. After you’ve peeled the cloves, put them in a large mixing bowl, cover them with water and use your fingers to clean any dirt off them. Then put them in a large strainer and rinse well. If you find any brownish tips or small spots, use a paring knife to trim them and then rinse again.

Bring the vinegar to a boil in a large pot. For about 50 cloves of garlic, you’ll want about four cups of vinegar. Place the clean garlic cloves into small, clean jars. Once the vinegar has boiled, pour it over the garlic and screw the lids on tight. Let the jars come to room temperature and then store them in the refrigerator.

These same sorted and cleaned cloves can be roasted. If you want to add a rich, subtle garlic flavor to a dish, roasted garlic is the way to go without it being overpowering. You can easily blend it into sauces like alfredo or into condiments such as dips and hummus, not to mention roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Traditionally, roasted garlic is made by slicing the tops off whole heads, wrapping the heads in foil, roasting them, then squeezing the soft garlic out of the cloves. But you can’t do that if the cloves need to be sorted, and truthfully, you lose a lot of garlic that way. Take your nice clean cloves and roast them instead. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, spread the garlic cloves in a single layer on top of the baking sheet and drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat all of them. Lightly season with sea salt and pepper. Roast garlic for 45 minutes or so, gently shaking the pan halfway through. They’ve finished roasting when they are fork-tender and golden brown. You can take the amount you would use in a couple of weeks, put it in a jar and cover it with olive oil to store in the refrigerator. To freeze your roasted garlic, place individual roasted garlic cloves in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze for an hour and transfer to a sealed bag or container. Frozen roasted garlic cloves will keep up to a month. You can also mash or puree the roasted garlic and store it in dedicated ice cube trays to add a bit to your favorite recipes. Here’s one to try for your upcoming Super Bowl party.

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10 cloves roasted garlic
5 strips bacon, roughly chopped
12 medium sweet onion, minced
3 avocados
12 tsp. hot sauce
juice of one lime
14 cup chopped cilantro
Sautee bacon and, when almost done, add onion and continue cooking until it’s soft. Remove from heat and set aside. Scoop avocados in a bowl with the roasted garlic cloves and mash the mixture with a fork. Add lime juice and hot sauce and mash a bit more, leaving some small chunks. Stir in onion and bacon. Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.