‘Cracking’ garlic is the term generally used to describe breaking apart the garlic bulb into individual cloves prior to planting. Individual cloves, by virtue of being ripped apart from their siblings, are referred to as seed. I like to think of them as orphans.
There are 26 Russian Red garlic cloves that make up the one pound punnet of seed on the scale. We will put in 3120 pounds of seed so that roughly translates to over 80,000 plants for next summer. Most advise I have found suggests cracking the garlic as close to planting as possible to ensure the integrity and viability of the seed. Some even suggest cracking the night before. Sure, like I’m going to be able to add 3119 more punnets of orphans overnight. It will take around 120 hours to crack that much. Last year we began cracking seed 14 days prior to planting and there was no noticeable loss of integrity at harvest. So don’t fret over having your garlic cracked for a few days or more before you plant. Store your orphans in a well ventilated area at around 10 to 15 degrees centigrade and I’m sure it will be fine.
We managed to get some fall rye established in the past couple of weeks even though the weather has been very dry and warm. The area pictured will receive new garlic seed by around October 7. We will till the rye in one pass then one more pass with discs attached to a cultivator will raise the soil forming a nice bed for planting. The remaining 3/4 of the field will stay under fall rye until the spring.
Autumn: Crisp, fresh and invigorating. Reminds me of perfectly line dried bed linens. Autumn is seriously my favourite time of the year. Even if it heralds winter which is not even my second favourite time of the year. That is reserved for Summer or maybe Spring. Anyway I never had the fortitude, inner nor outer, to endure winter activities. farmersdotter likes the winter activities. She is a skier. I admire all skiers and doers of ice and snow. I simply prefer less layers whilst performing feats of daring do. I think that is why God invented the Mayan Riviera and beer because it requires little clothing and level of skill; both of which I am remarkably well suited. I’ll take my skies behind a Malibu Wakesetter please. Regardless winter will soon storm in and our productive season will draw to a close.
We have had a wonderful summer at the Penticton Farmers Market which continues until October 27 this year. We have made new friends and developed regular customers who pop by for their weekly sample of fresh bread and preserves. According to her interpreter the sampler in the photo below says our bread is her most favourite in the whole world.
Autumn also means an abundance of fresh heirloom tomatoes. These tangy little beauties will roast in the same wood fired oven that baked the bread over the weekend.
After firing Friday Night for the Saturday market, enough residual heat remains that by Monday the oven can effectively roast off meats and veggies. Slow braising and stewing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is a summer breeze when oven temperatures moderate to the mid 200 degrees fahrenheit.
We are not sure yet if we can keep the bakery operating throughout the winter. Winter, ‘insert cerveza here’. I digress. Perhaps we can drum up enough demand. We will see. Bunty Cat is on my side: “Shade the sun and hand me another cold one”.
Time to say good bye to farmersdotter Organic Russian Red Garlic. The last of it will be leaving the farm today. A Prince George distributor will be taking it for distribution to the BC Interior. Truth be told we are glad to see the last of it go. It means we had a successful year. Although by now all our garlic would normally have been in the market for a couple of weeks continuing to cure in someone’s else storage facility and not ours. However, we were asked to the reserve the last of the Russian Red while the new distributor got set up. Reserving the last of the garlic was something we were reluctant to do given the demand for organic Russian Red Garlic but we deemed the risk worth it. If all goes well with this first, albeit late season, delivery then next year the good folks from Burns Lake to Mackenzie will be able to enjoy our garlic and we get to move more of our product in a shorter time frame which is ultimately what we want.
So yeah. farmersdotter has been playing in the kitchen. Experimenting with heat. You know the saying: ‘If you can’t handle the heat’. Well, she won’t get out of the kitchen. She is in there; eyes watering, tongue burning, and pots bubbling brewing up some artery clearing concoctions all containing habanero chilis. To put things into perspective the habanero chili is rated 200,000–350,000 on the Scoville scale. That is somewhere between frickin’ hot and OMG!
From a blackened couldron farmersdotter decants a caramelized peach and habanero slurry. We think it may be a jam. Or a meat rub. Whatever. Its heat is remarkably suited as a cheese cake topping or an ice cream melt kind of thing. Very versatile but hot. Truth be told the ‘jam’ was made without the seeds. Inside the seed is where the real heat resides.
“Can you imagine the heat if you left the seeds in” I exclaimed, wiping the sweat from my bald pate. farmersdotter’s grin assumes an evil posture. “Oh, just you wait” she says as she reveals a confection she innocently calls Habanero and Pepita Seed Brittle. “Try this my pretty…”
Not many more days until the tools and equipment are properly put up and stored for the off season. Still difficult to say… ‘winter’. The two main tasks that remain are preparing the land for winter cover crop and, of course, preparing the area devoted for garlic seed next month.
We are inputting the entire field with fall rye grass for the winter. The area we devote to the garlic patch will also benefit from the addition of harry vetch, a legume that will climb up the fall rye and hopefully establish enough to fix a little nitrogen in the soil.
Since consulting with Dr. Fred Crowe from Oregon State University we realize there are a couple of changes we can introduce to our farming practices to improve the sustainability of the farm while maintain profitability. First we improve sustainability by moving away from the previous two year rotation to a four year rotation. We will grow specific groups of crops on a different part of the field each year. This will help reduce a build up of crop specific pest and disease problems and organize crops according to their cultivation needs.
Second, to maintain profitability the volume of garlic must remain constant but over a smaller area of the field. Last year, using half the field, we planted 3200 pounds of seed in 16 – 3′ x 600′ raised beds. That same field also had two interior access roads which really weren’t necessary. This year we will eliminate the interior access roads and increase the amount of seed per bed thus reducing the area of the garlic patch by 50%. We will increase the amount of seed to 240 pounds per bed but over only 13 beds. Bottom line: 3140 pounds of garlic seed this year over half the field versus 3120 pounds next year over one quarter of the field. That equals a viable four year rotation. Also, we can achieve this increase and still maintain a healthy 6″ spacing in our planting.
In will take 3400 pounds of garlic bulbs to realize 3120 pounds of cleaned and separated seed or ‘cloves’. And yes, the bulbs will be separated into seed or individual cloves by hand.