Wednesday, July 18, 2018

King of the Farm

By Andrea Yoder

Crack it, Plant it, Cover it, Mulch it, Pray for it, Wait for it, Hope for it, Fork it, Catch a Glimpse of it, Feed it, Water it, Weed it, Feed it, Weed it, Feed it, De-scape it, Dig it, Bundle it, Dry it, Select it, Clean it, Store it, Eat it, Be grateful for it, and do it all over again.  The “It” is Garlic.  It’s a lot of work.  It’s a lot of gamble.  It’s a lot of skill.  It’s a lot of patience.  It’s a lot of trust.  It’s not negotiable.  In our minds, it’s a staple.  It’s essential.  It keeps us healthy, nourishes us, enhances our meals and life without garlic would just be pretty bland.  It just might be the King crop of our farm.

Our first load of garlic harvested in 2018!
We started our garlic harvest last Thursday afternoon.  Thus far we’ve harvested 33,720 bulbs of garlic and hope to finish harvesting the remainder of the field before the end of the week.  We only have about 10% of the crop remaining in the field.  Garlic harvest is a big deal.  Timing is everything and it takes a lot of hands on deck to make it happen in a timely manner.  The crew has done an excellent job once again.  We’ll be honest with you, this is not the best crop we’ve ever harvested.  We lost some garlic to rot early in the spring when it was cold and wet.  Once we saw the sprouts starting to try to push through the mulch, the crew went out and loosened the mulch so they could make it through the thick, insulating layer.  The next day, April 18, we got a foot of heavy, wet snow that packed the mulch back down on top of the delicate sprouts.  Some sprouts didn’t fare so well.  Once the snow melted, we forked the mulch off the plants again, the survivors pushed through and we carried on.  So, this year’s garlic crop isn’t as plentiful as we were hoping for, but we still have garlic!  The bulbs are smaller and we’ve noticed they don’t have as many cloves of garlic per bulb as they usually do.  Italian garlic generally produced 8-10 cloves per bulb and Porcelain garlic generally produces 4-5 cloves per bulb.  This year we’re seeing more in the range of 7 per bulb on the Italian and 2 per bulb on the porcelain. 

Garlic sprout peeking through the ground this spring
Garlic growth is heavily regulated by day length and spring is a very important time of the year for garlic to grow and develop.  The conditions were not very conducive for “normal” growth this spring, yet the biological clock inside the plant continued to tick along with the changing day length.  Once we did get back on more of a “normal” weather pattern, the garlic resumed normal growth rates however it was unable to compensate for the lost growth time and thus, we have small garlic.  That’s our theory. 

The good news is that we have garlic and will be able to select seed from this year’s crop to replant in the fall for the 2019 crop.  We will need to be very careful with our selection this year and will likely take a larger percentage of our overall crop for seed than we normally do, which means the garlic available for eating may be more limited.  Another piece of good news is that this year’s garlic looks really healthy and we aren’t seeing much, if any, disease on the bulbs.  This is important both for storage potential, but also for selecting seed stock.  We don’t want to replant any cloves from bulbs with disease as we risk carrying disease from one year into the next.

Richard enjoying the 2011 Garlic Diner
So that’s the state of this year’s crop.  It isn’t the biggest, most plentiful crop, but we’re thankful for what we have and that we’ll be able to continue to preserve our varieties by saving seed for the next crop.  Even though there’s less garlic on the tables in our greenhouse this year, we still feel rich when we walk down those aisles.  

Last Sunday we attended the annual garlic dinner hosted by Tami Lax at Harvest Restaurant in Madison,Wisconsin.  Tami has been hosting this dinner every year in July for seventeen years!  We enjoyed a five course meal that included garlic in every course!  Chefs Josh and Evan, along with their culinary crew, used almost forty pounds of our garlic in the meal.  They used our fresh garlic, which is harder to peel.  I think Chef Josh said it took them nearly 6 to 7 hours to peel all the garlic!  It is always fun to see how they choose to use the garlic in each course and the dinner always serves as a representation of just how versatile garlic can be in its uses.  We enjoyed whipped, rendered pork fat that had been infused with garlic and was served with grilled bread and a simple fennel and radish salad.  They made a delicious cucumber salad featuring burnt garlic salt and crisp garlic chips with mint and feta.  This was an interesting dish featuring our porcelain garlic.  The garlic chips were the perfect shade of golden and sweet, not bitter.  Chef Even had the idea to actually burn garlic by roasting it in the oven and then ground it with salt to make this cool black salt that was infused with the garlic flavor!  This was one of my favorite dishes.  Yes, they even incorporated garlic into the dessert!  They were not shy in making a garlic streusel topping for a cherry crumble and they served it with ice cream made from black garlic.  Black garlic is a means of preserving garlic by very slowly roasting it over the course of weeks.  The process develops the natural sugars in the garlic and the end result is much different than fresh garlic!  We had a fun evening and were grateful for the opportunity to share in this celebration of garlic.

We hope you enjoy the garlic you receive in this year’s remaining boxes and appreciate what we have as we look forward to another crop in the future.  Garlic is our labor of love and we’re grateful for each and every hand that helps along the way.
Some of the many hands helping us with our labor of love

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