Garlic Season

Kate, our Farm Manager, writes this week from the field: Garlic is one of my favorite crops to grow.  We started harvesting garlic on Monday and the crop looks nice, but smaller than usual.  The bulbing response is daylength dependent, so the plant only has so many days to grow before making a bulb.  The spring was so cold for so long that the garlic took longer to emerge from its blanket of mulch.  It had less time to grow and produce a bulb.  However, the variety we grow (German Extra Hardy, a porcelain type) produces a single ring of BIG cloves.  It’s so easy to peel and use.  You may need to adjust recipes, as one of our cloves is often equivalent to 2 cloves of garlic you might buy elsewhere. One of the reasons I love growing garlic is because it signals the shift to serious harvest season.  More of our work will shift to harvesting and less time will be spent planting and weeding crops.  Garlic is the first of our storage crops to come in, building our squirrel stash for the colder months that seem far away.  The garlic we harvested this week is so fresh and juicy!  I like to store it in a bag in the refrigerator.  Most of the garlic will stay in the greenhouse for a few weeks to cure, where its outer layers will dry down, making it less perishable. We save the largest bulbs each year as seed stock and plant individual cloves in early November.  Fall planted garlic yields a bigger bulb with stronger flavor and better storability than if it was planted in spring.  We tuck it in for winter under a thick blanket of straw mulch that prevents the cloves from heaving out of the soil during the freeze-thaw cycles of winter.  Planting and mulching garlic is one of our last field tasks of the season.

Last fall, mulching the garlic we are now harvesting!

Come spring, it’s one of the first green things to greet us in the fields.  We harvest some of the young plants as green garlic for the first couple weeks of the CSA share.  We grow hardneck garlic (rather than softneck), which produces an edible flower stalk that you would recognize as a garlic scape.  We harvest scapes for two reasons:  1. They’re delicious!  2. Removing it redirects the plant’s energy from flower production to bulb growth.  If we let the scape mature, you would see a sphere of little bulbs at the end of the stalk.
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