July Fourteenth

It’s already week 7 and the Garlic Harvest has begun! Garlic has always been one of our favorite crops to grow for many reasons. As we begin the garlic harvest the nostalgic smell of freshly dug garlic is a monumental moment in time for me. I am hopelessly in love with garlic because I have such a sincere respect for this plant. Perhaps it is one plant I feel more closely related to because it is one of the few plants we grow that we are able to save our seed for and re-plant every year without fault.

Six years ago, when I was working my final year as an “intern” at One Sun Farm and Bakery, I took $200 in garlic seed as payment for my months work on this farm. Two hundred dollars translated to twenty pounds of garlic. I have watched my twenty pounds grow into 1500 pounds as I plant and re-plant my same seed every year, growing out our seed stock and improving our strains. For every one pound of garlic that you plant, you can expect to see about five pounds of garlic in return in a good year as it multiplies itself out.

This plant is amazing to me because it is planted in the fall, just before the danger of winter begins to set in. The singled out cloves are left to fend for themselves in the -20 degree temperatures that Southwestern Wisconsin can bring. We mulch our lovely beds with a 6 inch covering of straw mulch to help them bear the brutal winter, prevent the weeds from coming up in the spring, and to help preserve moisture in the soil for then the plants start to grow as the soil temperatures begin to warm.

Garlic, actually an herb, is in the same family of plants as onions, leeks and shallots called Amaryllis or Allium. Garlic is also a medicinal plant that can boost the bodies immune system, reduce cholesterol, and is a natural antibiotic and has antifungal properties. Not to mention that this plant tastes delicious and goes with almost any savory dish. We are a little bit compulsive about our garlic use on the farm and we have actually ask each other when we’re making dinner if we should put one or two bulbs in the dinner, not one or two cloves, one or two bulbs.

Last season we decided to buy a new variety of garlic from a neighbor friend of ours. I took home 5 pounds of his Russian Giant garlic and this year I hope to harvest 25 lbs of this garlic. If turn around and re-plant all 25lbs of that garlic, next summer I can hope to harvest 125lbs of this illusive Russian Giant. Our CSA members won’t actually see the Russian Giant in their boxes for another few years or until we have enough that we feel we can start to actually eat it. It is important when you buy a new variety that you give it a few years to become acclimated to your soil. As I purchased that garlic from a friend of ours who lives in the valley, has a completely different mineral and ph balance in his soils that we do, we need for our new garlic variety to adjust its growing behaviors according to its new ridge-top lifestyle.

So when you are stirring your marinara sauces and slicing this garlic for your garlic beds, be thinking about how this garlic has been underground for the last 8 months, taking root and swelling to its mature size in the dark underworld. This garlic is awakening from a long winter slumber. Fresh garlic is very tender and can be easily bruised. Be gentle with these delicate beauties and be glad you are part of a local garlic revolution. Over 90% of the garlic grown in the United Sates is grown in California and when that runs out, we start ordering from China. Gotta love fresh, local, seasonal organic garlic! Yum!

Sooo, What's in the Box???

Fresh Garlic- Freshly dug after a long winter's slumber.  This garlic can be hung to dry in your kitchen to "cure" for a few weeks, or you can open it now to taste the difference of what fresh garlic is like compared to cured garlic.  The membrane around each clove which is normally a paper thin layer is actually still quite thick and alive in fresh garlic.  You will have to peel away a thick layer to get down to the cloves.
Summer Squash-  Yellow straightnecks.  These are delicious grated, grilled or cubed on kabobs.
Zucchini-  We do what we can to harvest them small, but once in awahile they get bigger than we expect them to.  They prefer 50 degrees to keep them from getting wrinkley.  Eat up promptly, these plants are only getting started!
Patty Pan or Cucumber-  The Patty Pans were the white-ish colored squash that is spherically shaped and ridged on the edges.  These are an heirloom variety of squash and they are like butter in your sautee pans.  The long cucumbers are the burpless kind that are actually an asian variety.  Rarely do these cucumbers look blemish-free, but their flavor is soooo smooth!
Broccoli-  More lovely broccoli.  Be sure to blanche and freeze the broccoli if you're getting more than you can use in one week.  Spring and Fall are Broccoli seasons.  We have to store it away for later while we have it to pull it out of the freezer when we have not.
Basil-  More yummy basil.  This time enough to actually make a batch of pesto!  Remember that Basil does not like refrigeration.  Refrigeration can turn the basil black!
Lettuce-  We're getting close to the end of our lettuce supply.  We have about one or two more weeks of it until it's done until fall.  Lettuce has a tendency to get a little more bitter in the heat of the summer.  The bitter flavor is good for the liver.
Swiss Chard- More yummy greens for sauteeing and steaming.  See the swiss chard lasagna recipe below!
Green Onions-  To be used in place of onions in any of your onion loving recipes.  The greens can be used also!
Next Week:  Broccoli, green onions, celery, zuchhini, summer squash, cucumbers, cabbage, beets