So the other day we had a farm visit from Lainie from Prairie Boy Bread in Toronto. We are kindred spirits. They bake bread; we bake bread. They farm; we farm. They don’t have Garlic Scape Salt; we do.

So we hooked up and now farmersdotter Original Garlic Scape Salt, thanks to Lainie and Grant, is available for the first time for the nice folks in the greater Toronto area.

Prairie Boy Bread

Prairie Boy Bread

Pop by their place 221 Sorauren Avenue, Toronto Ontario. Like them on Facebook too!

 

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Seed Selection 101

It is about this time of the year we prepare for next year’s harvest. We begin with selecting seed for planting next month from the racks of cured garlic harvested in July.

Plant next month you say?!

Hung Garlic

Harvested garlic curing on hanging racks

Yes, we plant garlic comparatively early. Growers in our region typically plant around the first freeze in mid October.

We did that once. Won’t do it again.

The first time we planted garlic was on one such mid October morning when the old bat assisting us, and I’m being kind there, mentioned that if you wait until after nine in the morning the sun will have risen enough above the hills to the east.

“Enough for what?” I asked.

As the mid-morning frost reluctantly steamed its’ way out of the frigid freshly-rotovated planting rows she poked her stubbly little wing into the soil and blankly remarked “enough to prevent frost bite.”

F*ck that we thought.

Then we remembered a story told to us from a friend who has a friend who has a client whose friend knows this garlic grower who lives up on Upper Bench Road not far from the Fairview Road right there by the Blind Creek Vineyard who plants garlic insanely early and their garlic is like some of the best garlic ever but nobody knows about it cause they only grow it for themselves and don’t share it except for that one time years back before salmon left the river they shared like a bulb or two with my friend’s friend’s client’s friend because he or she fixed the hydraulics on the garlic dudes old Massey although it could have been the Kubota but them things run like a deer so it must have been the Massey. Ya. The Massey.

Solid.

farmersdotter was inspired. She researched and armed herself with enough early garlic planting information to drive a spike through the old Chiropteran autumnal methodology and we’ve never looked back.

I digress.

So, selecting seed. We select premium specimens from the drying racks…

Premium Seed Garlic

Premium Seed Garlic with Healthy Round Basal Plate

then place them in totes …

Whole seed garlic stored in totes

Whole seed garlic stored in totes

where they wait to be processed by hand into individual seed or more commonly cloves.

Cracking garlic into seed began a couple of days ago. We will set the seed in the ground September 21. So all in all it takes a little over a month to process all the seed we will need. We see no harm nor degradation to seed that has been cracked and well stored for that amount of time prior to planting.

We select 4000 pounds of premium whole bulb garlic for our seed bank. Cracking each bulb by hand is labour intensive but it allows for a quick inspection of each clove for seed suitability.

Suitable Seed

Suitable Seed

Suitable seeds are large cloves with a good-sized basal plate (neural tube) that will generate a healthy volume of roots. They are firm and wrapped with a smooth healthy layer of paper. They should exhibit a desirable symmetry.

However, not all cloves in any one bulb may be suitable as seed. Some cloves are too small with an insignificant basal plate that will develop a week root system. Some will be ‘doubles’ with two or more cloves that can not be cleanly separated and if planted would run a high risk of producing an inferior bulb with two or more ‘scapes‘. Some cloves may simply appear unhealthy. These will usually have a mottled or wrinkled paper covering and an inferior basal plate.

Poor Quality Seed

Left-Too small. Middle-Inseparable double. Right-Wrinkled

Save these for the kitchen.

We separate garlic bulbs into seed by cracking. A method effective with well cured garlic. Simply tap the hard scape core down onto a hard surface. This force will crack or pop the root basal plate releasing each clove. Simply strip away excess paper and discard the hard scape core.

By the time the last bulb is cracked and we have accounted for the unsuitable seed we will have about 3400 pounds of select seed to plant into the warm soil of the equinox.

Cracked Garlic Seed

Cracked Garlic Seed


39 in the Shade

This is the kind of day you dream about all winter. Mid afternoon, thirty-nine celsius in the shade and not a cloud in sight. Was it ever winter? Can’t even imagine snow on the ground nor fruit trees without luscious foliage and budding fruit. It is an early season. Chelan Cherries are already coming off…

Chelan Cherries

Chelan Cherries

… and the first heirloom tomatoes are available from Harker’s Organics in our fair town of Cawston, BC. The ubiquitous fruit stands are bursting. Yet summer in the Similkameen is amazing if not a contradiction. Part of Canada’s only true desert, the Similkameen is made up with sagebrush, cacti, tarantulas and rattle snakes. No kidding. See…

Rattle Snake

Rattle Snake

…Wes Makepeace photographed this little fellow caught by Walter Makepeace at Hugging Tree Winery on Highway 3 midway between Cawston, BC and Nighthawk, USA. Its okay, Walter insists rattle snakes have never been known to get close to Hugging Tree’s tasting room… Yeh. However, with a little and sometimes a lot of irrigation the dry ground provides the Similkameen with an abundance of lush fruits and vegetables.

Irrigating Garlic

Irrigating Garlic

For us this means an abundance of the best Russian Red Garlic and Garlic Scape. Today was our first day ‘scaping’ a term we use to describe removing the flower stalk (scape) from the garlic plant. Aside from rewarding us with the raw material for the Original Garlic Scape Salt, removing the scape diverts stored energy down to the bulb, which is the money maker. Scapes are collected by hand…

Removing Scapes

Removing Scapes

… and set into clear plastic bags for cold storage.

Bags o' Scape

Bags o’ Scape

There they will wait for the secret proprietary process to turn it all into Scape Salt. In the meantime… Cheers!

39 in the Shade

39 in the Shade


Thats Fair – Risk Guide for Produce

While it is easy to paint with a big brush is it always good to do so? No, not always. Too easy to cover up details with one thoughtless stroke. Lines get blurred and the balance becomes skewed like those between the organic and conventional farming industries.

Risk Guide for ProduceJustice Scale

Organic farmers have witnessed a dramatic increase in awareness and consumer support. Support exacted to a large extent at the expense of conventional farmers who have been taking it in on the chin lately for everything from pollution to cancer to God knows what…biological terrorism. Seriously? Not fair.

farmersdotter will never adopt conventional farming practices but that is our choice. Does that mean we are superior to all conventional farmers? No. No it doesn’t. Even if we like to think it does it definitely does not.

We could bore you. Rehash statistics and details. Regurgitate broad brush hyperbole linking conventionally farmed produce to a prolonged, tumor riddled, cancerous death. Not fair. There are radical factions within the organic industry who are as adept at peddling and spinning their ideology as the best zealots out there.

Courtesy Consumer Reports

Courtesy Consumer Reports

Having said that we think it important consumers make informed choices. We recently came across a Consumer Reports article about pesticides in produce that seems sensible, fair and balanced. Well worth consulting. Cheers!


5 Fresh Garlic Recipes for Life

Among the first to be recognized as a medicinal herb, garlic has a history that dates back some 5000 years.

Fresh Garlic

Fresh Garlic

A CBC article suggests eating raw garlic twice a week can cut the chances of lung cancer by almost half. In addition to cancer fighting properties consuming fresh garlic is a wonderful way to boost your immune system. The jury is out whether or not similar results can be achieved with cooked garlic.

Your challenge then becomes how to introduce fresh garlic into your daily diet for a long and healthy life. We know a few garlic devotees who carry fresh garlic with them and routinely chew on a few cloves a day the way some people chew Chiclets. Both difficult to swallow and one should be avoided altogether. So how best to consume fresh garlic?

Add fat. Adding a little fat to fresh garlic better facilitates the uptake of garlic’s goodness, in this case the allicin.

And isn’t just about everything better with a little fat?  Be it butter, pork, your significant other, or olive oil, how can you possible go wrong? Fat is good. Yes, yes it is. In moderation fat is good. We need fat. Just not a ton of it. Dirt is better with butter.

Here are five easy ways to add fresh garlic into your daily diet.

 

1  Fresh Garlic Bread / Toast:

Fresh Garlic Bread / Toast

Fresh Garlic Bread / Toast

A slice or two of sourdough rubbed with a fresh garlic clove will lend a mild garlic flavour to the bread. For better allicin uptake mince a fresh clove of garlic and combine with a fat-pat of butter or a teaspoon of cold pressed olive oil. Now spread that on your toast and feel the heal. Fast food to help cure your ills. Unlike McProcessed McGarbage.

 

2  Aioli with Fresh Garlic:

Dip everything in garlic aioli; fresh veggie sticks, taco chips, bread, your finger, whatever.

To make garlic ailoi mix crushed garlic with some simple homemade mayonnaise. Really? Okay.

In a nutshell – Simple Homemade Mayonnaise:

Simple Mayo Ingredients

Simple Mayo Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Up to 1 fat cup of olive oil

Combine the egg and lemon juice in a food processor and blend while slowly pouring in olive oil until emulsified and thick. That will basically do.

Add good stuff like chopped fresh Italian parsley, basil, savory, chervil, tarragon, pickles, or combination thereof to personalize this incredible dip.

 

3  Pesto with Fresh Garlic:

Freezer Pesto

Freezer Pesto

Every summer farmersdotter scoops up fresh basil from our garden and those of our neighbours. The basil gets washed and dried and is then processed with fresh garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil and pepita (pumpkin) seeds. Pine nuts are awesome but way to expensive for the amount of pesto we consume.

farmersdotter concludes your money is better spent purchasing the best of the rest and if you want to splurge on pine nuts then sprinkle them on top at serving time. Besides, if you toast the pepitas you will achieve a lovely well balanced nutty flavour.

farmersdotter prepares enough pesto to last all year. After processing, the pesto is divided into small batches, enough for a few days, and placed into a container appropriate for freezing.

Some recipes will caution against processing the parmesan and olive if you intend to freeze your pesto but honestly farmersdotter says do it all at the same time. We eat pesto in February and it is as wonderful as pesto freshly prepared in July.

  • 1 pound (6 cups packed) fresh basil
  • 1 – 1/2 cups virginy fat olive oil
  • 1/2 cup roasted pepita (pumpkin) seeds
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 – 8 cloves fresh chopped garlic
  • Salt to taste

This is such a versatile recipe. Experiment with fresh or dried chili peppers to add a layer of interesting heat. Substitute a portion of the basil with Italian parsley for an earthy overtone. In season farmersdotter will use our fresh garlic scape in place fresh garlic cloves.

Regardless of which combination of herbs you choose as your base, a good quality olive oil and parmesan cheese processed with fresh garlic and nicely toasted seeds and or nuts will yield a very satisfying pesto appropriate for freezing. Just what you want in February.

 

4  Guacamole with Fresh Garlic:

Guacamole Ingredients

Guacamole Ingredients

In a bowl mix all ingredients with a fork until smooth and dip your way to long life and good health!

  • 3-4 cloves of minced garlic.
  • A couple of nicely fat-ripe avocados.
  • 1 medium finely chopped red onion
  • 2-3 seeded Roma tomatoes finely chopped
  • Half bunch of chopped cilantro or Italian parsley.
  • Fresh squeezed lime juice to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Lime zest (optional)

 

5  Hummus with Fresh Garlic:

Basic Hummus Ingredients

Basic Hummus Ingredients

Simple is best when it comes to preparing hummus with fresh garlic. This is one recipe where you want to resist adding weird shit for the sake of personalizing it. No one cares. Do it simple and do it right.

The only oil used to prepare traditional hummus comes from tahini. If you want to be a purest you can roast off and blend your own sesame into tahini but commercial tahini is just fine. If you desire olive oil then drizzle a little on top of your hummus at plating time. Nice.

For best results use small grained chickpeas. Avoid canned chickpeas and the larger garbanzo beans as they will rarely produce the soft and fluffy texture you want.

Regardless, to achieve a soft and fluffy texture simply soak chickpeas overnight in fresh water enough to cover plus an inch or two. In the morning drain chickpeas and place them in a cooking pot. Again cover with fresh water enough plus an inch or two only this time add a pinch of baking soda. Place pot with chickpeas on a burner and slow boil until tender.

Forget the whole chickpeas have a weird-texture skin-thing going on. The baking soda has taken care of that.

Once your chickpeas are cooked tender, drain and rinse then set aside.

Process tahini, lemon juice, and garlic into a paste. Add chickpeas and process until smooth. Add the necessary salt to taste.

If desired, though not totally necessary, add the cumin and parsley to taste reserving olive oil and paprika for plating.

  • 2 cups chickpea
  • 4 big fat tablespoons of tahini
  • 4 cloves chopped fresh garlic
  • 4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  •  Coarse sea salt to taste
  • Ground cumin to taste (optional)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped parsley (optional)
  • Olive oil for drizzling (optional)
  • Pinch paprika sprinkled on top after plating (optional)

 


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