Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's Garlic Time!

Behold, my first garlic harvest!

Well, most of it, anyway.  Three heads had already made their way into the kitchen.  But here you go:  from two packages of "seed" garlic, I was able to grow 36 head of garlic.  Best of all, I was able to grow the garlic in a strip of land that had previously been a real wasteland:  it was full of construction debris from when the house was built 40 years ago, had very thin soil, and really only wanted to grow nettles.  Any attempts to grow anything else -- tomatoes, zucchini, or sunflowers -- ended either in plant death from malnutrition or a really good breakfast for the rabbits.  And one attempt to grow breadseed poppies -- for lemon poppyseed bread, I swear! -- wound up teaching me more than I wanted to know about how rabbits would have fared in the 1960s.  Let's just say that one year, I had a semi-tame rabbit called "Jerry," after Mr. Garcia.

Anyway, I planted my seed garlic last October, and it responded by sending up little shoots that lived until the soil froze.  They wintered beautifully and were the first bits of green in the garden.  When the tops started to bend over and dry, I figured out it was time to pull the garlic. 

I let the garlic cure on the outside patio for a few days, then cut the tops.  I was going to do a beautiful country-style garlic braid, but I realized I had so much garlic that hanging a braid in the pantry would result in it sprouting (from the warmth), and leaving it hang unprotected "down cellar" in our lower level would let it get dusty.  So, I sewed a drawstring bag from the back half of an old pillowcase (I wanted to keep the embroidery on front), and my garlic is now safely hanging "down cellar," ready for me to reach in and get a head any time I need one in the kitchen.

One error:  In my enthusiasm to order seed garlic last year, I neglected to note whether I had purchased a hybrid or an heirloom, so I don't know if I can use this as seed garlic.  I will order an heirloom variety this year, so in the future I can use a couple of heads to start the next year's crop.

The Analysis

Fast:  Maybe not fast, per se, but definitely low effort.  DH and I spent 20 minutes last October shoving cloves of seed garlic into the ground, and that was the last thing I did to the garlic patch until I pulled the crop.

Cheap:  I didn't keep my receipt from the seed garlic (sorry...) but I know that 6 heads of seed garlic cost about the same as 6 heads of "cooking" garlic from the store.  So, I got 6 times the garlic that I would have had I bought it in the store. 

Good:  Garlic and onions are two of the things that keep me from going crazy in the winter from wanting fresh veggies.  And cellaring is the ultimate in cheap food storage:  just pull the crop, cure it, and take it downstairs.  Easy!
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