~Annalisa The Garlic Lady~
The Garlic pull party is starting to become something of a tradition here. It has been very productive and fun for the past two seasons and were looking forward to more in the years to come.
Garlic is one of the main crops that we grow and also one of our favorite! Annalisa is about 6 years into seed saving of her best garlic bulbs, from our favorite varieties to bring you the beautiful bulbs that we are now growing. If your not sure how Garlic is grown I’ll give a quick overview as it is a really fascinating plant.
Garlic comes out of the ground as a bulb which, depending on the variety, it may have from 4 to 12 cloves within that bulb. When we harvest our garlic in July, it gets separated into different catagories. First by variety, since we grow about 7 or 8 different kinds of Garlic. (Out of the thousands of varieties in the world!) We work with the varieties that have shown themselves to grow well in our climate and soils and have a great variety of tastes. Next in the sorting stage, the bulbs get separated into large, medium and small sizes. Typically what is done with Garlic is that the largest third of your crop gets set aside for re-planting. (Big bulbs make more big bulbs/small bulbs make more smaller bulbs.) When we get ready to plant garlic in the fall, we break up all of the biggest bulbs from that summers harvest and separate them into 5 gallon buckets by variety. Then each individual clove gets lovingly hand planted, root side down, into the ground in rows. We backfill the holes with compost and then lay out a straw mulch over them to protect from frost heaving in the winter time.
Garlic needs the cold dormant months of the winter to multiply itself and turn one clove into a full head of cloves. Then first thing in the spring you can see the garlic shoots poking up through the straw before anything else in the garden is coming to life. It’s always really exciting to see those first sprouts.
In mid June the Garlic plant sends up it’s seed heads which uncurl themselves slowly. This part of the plant is called the scape and we harvest these for two reasons. First to put all of the plants energy to it’s bulb rather than to making seed, and second because the scape is delicious! It can be chopped up and used like garlic would in any meal or it can blended with olive oil and lemon juice to make a garlic scape pesto that we call Scesto and it is amazing!
We usually leave one or two scapes from each variety to be our indicators of when the bulbs are ready. When the scape has completly unrolled itself and stands upright then the bulbs are ready for harvest. This is usually in mid July, this summer of 2010 we are planning a Garlic harvest party including music, food, and farm tours. We will have some more information on this event soon. Be sure to ask us about it next time you see us.
After harvest we make sure to dry out all of the bulbs really well to avoid rot or midlew growing on them and then Annalisa makes beautiful braids out of them, we have found them to make excellent gifts and also just a beautiful way to store your winter garlic supply. Look for our fresh garlic braids at market by August!