Friday, August 1, 2014

Garlic Season

Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.” 
- Alice May Brock 
(of ‘Alice's Restaurant’ fame)

I love garlic.  If it is possible that such a thing can be carried to an extreme where it is no longer healthy, that is where garlic lives, for me.

It can improve almost any type of food, to paraphrase Angelo Pellegrini, with the possible exception of ice cream and pie... and I'm even thinking that's debatable, I bet I could find a way garlic would work for both.  Alas I have no time to devote to culinary experimentation, there are words to write!  But garlic ice cream, hmm, perhaps a suitably smooth puree whipped into a....  (continued)

I almost distracted myself again.  Ice cream, a weakness, who knew?

I have said for years that I want the end result at harvest time to be that I am "swimming in" garlic.  Alas, this year it was apparently not to be.  While this may not be our largest harvest ever by volume of garlic plants I believe this is the largest we've had yet in terms of bulb size.  I'll have to accept the improvement of quality over quantity, for now.  This crop represents 2 lbs. of organic seed garlic purchased from Peaceful Valley, with a few of our own "seeders" added in.  One can easily tell which ones came from the better stock.  We planted one lbs. each of Siberian and German Red (because Music was sold out).  Ironically, the links above are for the conventionally raised versions of these varieties as it appears the organic ones we ordered aren't currently available to link to, or for sale. I hope they'll have them back up and in stock by this fall.

I suspect that much of the best bulbs of this yield will be held back to plant for next year, and we will probably order more as well since much, much, more of it is needed.  I have no plans to literally fill the bathtub with garlic, even though I keep using the term "swimming" but it would be nice to be able to. You know, just in case I decide to later.

Since it stores so well, garlic is a crop that will last a whole year through. Any that might not last in the pantry can be cleaned and packed in oil, used right away, dehydrated, frozen, even incorporated into jars of pesto or other goodies and left to store that much longer. Given a large enough supply, garlic harvested at this time could still be resting in the pantry waiting to bask in culinary glory much later.  Though opinions on official storage limits vary somewhat we always seem to end up with a few bulbs left (often only the smallest and saddest) that outlast a full year.  They may not be in their prime any longer but they are still edible and tasty.

This ability to store so well means they will handle a bit of travel (even say, cross country shipping) and still reside comfortably in the receiving pantry for weeks and months after arrival.  I love the idea of giving garlic braids as gifts (my whole family uses the stuff, even if they may not be as crazy about it as me) and unlike the annual abundance of cucumber, zucchini, and summer squash garlic can be consumed at a reasonable pace without wearing out its welcome.  I've seen braids, wreaths, and other assortments of garlic for sale ranging from short simple braids for $15 to elaborate constructions of garlic and herbs for more than $50.  Talk about a market with creative opportunities.  I've heard there are places in the US where people lock their cars when left unattended to prevent their neighbors from leaving "gifts" of surplus garden zucchini on the front seat for when they return. Outside of vampire novels you don't hear much about people giving away extra garlic.  More 's the pity.  Perhaps we can make garlic gifting a thing.

While not as ubiquitous as tomatoes, or the oft vilified zucchini, I feel garlic deserves a place in all but the smallest gardens.  It is easy to grow, and though it does not enjoy competition a little weeding is all that's really required to keep the plants happy.  We plant in the fall which works well in many places, making for one less thing demanding attention during the spring.  For those with a long enough growing season spring planting is also possible, but here in the northeast doing so means the bulbs would mature too late in the year to hit fall planting deadlines.  So we plant in the fall and harvest well in advance of that.

Planting itself is easy and often is best around 3 weeks before the frost.  You want enough time for the roots to get established without the tip breaking the surface of the ground before the freeze.  Each bulb can be broken into cloves shortly before planting.  Any particularly small cloves should be held out for other uses.  With the clove planted roughly 2" below the surface, pointed end up, you are pretty much good to go.  A layer of mulch won't hurt either, if you have a bit right there. A bit of weeding like I said before and some water during the growing season and then it's a done deal.  When the leaves begin to die back it's time to harvest, dry it, and eventually perhaps even getting around to eating it.

We have quite a few recipes where good garlic plays a major role.  No, I'm not counting the ones that I add 4 cloves to just for me.  I suspect much of this winter our post topics will drift out of the yard and garden and into the kitchen and workshop.  No doubt we'll be sharing a lot of cooking here then.  Until then, what's your favorite dish that benefits from a bit of good garlic?  We especially appreciate any "old" recipes passed down, and we award double points for "secret" recipes, provided of course you get Grandma's permission to share them.

I didn't even start talking yet about all the good things it does for you.  Like repel vampires.  Maybe next time.

Thanks for stopping by.

Just q half a mile from the railroad track!


  1. I will gladly volunteer to be the first recipient of your garlic gifting if you are so inclined to make it a thing. Sadly, I have no surplus of garlic to gift in return, but maybe a barter for a container or two of blueberries? Perhaps they could make a complimentary ingredient to your garlic ice cream...

  2. Barter is beautiful haha. I can promise no gifts yet. Want to be SWIMMING in it. Then there will be gifting, and probably selling, and certainly bartering and ice cream. Mmmmm ice cream.

    Apparently we will need to make a non trivial investment in additional seed stock. We definitely got much more out of it than we put in the ground, but I was promised more than we got. So. MORE. Must plant MORE.