We are at the end of a hot and especially dry season. And right now, right at the moment I complete cracking 4000 pounds of garlic bulbs and separate them into little cloves that will forever haunt my dreams I am obliged to acknowledge my sore wrists, my garlic-chaff filled lungs and the fact that autumn has arrived in earnest.
I am not ready for autumn.
I’m still coping with the faint memory of last spring slipping into this summer which is now gone. No more.
Right. Time to plant.
Regardless of the amount of garlic to be planted it is best, especially in moist and temperate climates, to plant garlic in a purpose built raised bed. On a larger scale a raised-bed former is used.
We employ a hippy-inspired, home-made, spot-welded, disc-thingy-bed-former that attaches somewhat securely to our #HangInThereI-Think-I-CanGuardProtectorRemovedRotovator. #WorkSafe.
Ultimately your desire a loamy and uniform raised bed to accept seed.
We use a six inch spacing. In a bed three feet wide we plant six across and advance by six inches.
Plant to a depth where the top of the clove is two to four inches beneath the surface of the soil. Plant too shallow and you run the risk frost will heave the clove out of the winter ground. Mulching with straw will help prevent this from happening.
When planting by hand, as we do, it is difficult to plant too deep and four inches is an easy depth to achieve. This should result in a nice size bulb that is also easy to extract come harvest time.
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?!
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.
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.
So, selecting seed. We select premium specimens from the drying racks…
then place them 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 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.
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.
Among the first to be recognized as a medicinal herb, garlic has a history that dates back some 5000 years.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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)
Once the garlic is off the field we bundle the plants into bunches of about a dozen. A bundle large enough to easily grab with both hands. Bundles are placed on a tying table and the crew then links two bundles together with twine.
Just like saddling a horse each bundle is placed over a cross piece on a drying rack which resemble a ladder… only not.
After all the garlic is hung to dry in the barn, we call it a barn but it only has a roof for weather protection and is open on the sides to allow for great ventilation. Anyway, the garlic is hung for at least two and preferably three weeks before it is trimmed and cleaned for market.
So yeah. Hopefully that answers some questions you had about our simple method of drying garlic.
We have been harvesting our Russian Red garlic for a week now and anticipate pulling it all off by this Wednesday. Today we have a half crew finishing the last half of the garlic field.
The garlic will continue to hang on racks in the drying shed until at least the beginning of August at which time the crew will return to trim the roots and stalks. Shortly there after the garlic will go to market in 25 pound onion sacks.
The area for planting garlic this fall is under cover with Caliente 199 mustard from Rupp Seeds This mustard adds good bio mass and provides protection against a host of pest and disease.