Saturday, June 20, 2009

Garlic Harvest

Last night some friends/mentors took us out for a wonderful dinner at Vinaigrette, a relatively new restaurant that features salads--100% of the greens this time of year come from the owner's organic farm, outside of Santa Fe. I have to say that my salad, baby arugula with duck, goat cheese, and vinaigrette, was one of the best meals I've ever had in my life. In fact, this salad (and the great conversation) made me so ecstatic that when I got home, I simply could not wait a moment longer to harvest our garlic patch. Never mind that it was dark.

This is the first time we've grown garlic. We bought the seeds from the Farmer's Market and planted it back in October, and while it grew I learned what I could from A Garlic Testament, a great book by local garlic farmer Stanley Crawford. From reading his book and researching online, we learned that it can be hard to tell when garlic is ready for harvest, and that the optimum window of time is only 3-7 days long. Generally, you harvest garlic when the plant has started to brown somewhat, and after you've stopped watering it for a couple of weeks.

Well, the harvested garlic looks amazing. We've got about 40 bulbs, and the vast majority are nice and large. The garlic now has to be tied in bunches and hung to cure for several weeks, at which point we'll prepare it for longer term storage. This is the first time we've grown anything that we really planned to store, and it's very exciting for me as a glimpse into what producing much more of our food for storage might be like.

We grew top setting garlic, which has beautiful skins blotched with purple and, if the scapes aren't harvested, with produce small bulbils at the top of the plant. This makes top setting garlic the only variety still able to propagate itself without human intervention, and so in the interest of biodiversity and the long term survival of one of my favorite foods, that is what we chose to grow.

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