Garlic Mulched

Well, the weather has definitely shifted and those 60 degree days we had in October are gone for this year, I think. However, today was a very nice high 30s that already feels warmish to me (hard to imagine!) after some pretty chilly days. In honor of the nice, dry morning with promise of afternoon rain/sleet, the dogs and I decided to finish one last remaining farm task – mulching the garlic! This is normally a not so nice job, as the straw usually has gotten wet by now and we have heavy, moldy, slippery nasty straw to deal with. Not this year! We invested in an extra-large tarp to cover it with last year, and it is up on a hay rick near our swale field, so it’s off the ground, which allows it to drain if it does get wet. I was pleasantly surprised to find only a couple of damp bales, and mostly dry intact ones. I loaded them into our garden cart, and made 4 trips to the beds with the garlic, where it was relatively easy to break up the bales, and heap it up onto the beds. I also discovered, or actually, Mr. Smeems discovered, a nice warm cat nest in the heap of straw under the tarp. There were 6 kittens that look about 5 weeks old. I think Mr. S thought it was the best day of his life to have made such a find, but I made sure that he didn’t terrorize them too much, and made them a safe nest out of harm’s way. We had been hoping that someone had inhabited the straw bales because it did look cozy, warm and dry in there! Charley, Spencer’s dad helped us to plant our garlic on November 2nd, which we really appreciated. He was a great hole maker as Spence and I scooted along and filled in the holes with the garlic cloves. We had promised ourselves and the garlic that we’d make it back out to the field before too long to do the final step – mulching with 6 inches of straw to ensure early season warming and encourage those bulbs to throw out green shoots when the time is right. Also, it helps to keep down the weeds in those early weeks of the season. Alas, it took us nearly 4 weeks as we got over colds, and dealt with other tasks before I made it out there to finish the job. We won’t be pulling the garlic until around July 15th, so it needs a happy, healthy spot to rest for the 8 months. We have found that it really likes going into the place where our potatoes were. The garlic we grow is very similar to a German Extra Hardy Hardneck variety. We actually don’t know what it is exactly – we obtained the original seed garlic from a farmer named Ann-Elise Johnson when she was leaving the Intervale 4 years ago, and she got it from someone else who got it from someone else who got it from….so we call it Ann-Elise. We’ve continued to select for the largest cloves to plant, and were finally able to sell some of it this year for the first time – we have grown our original stock of around 150 cloves (1 clove = 1 bulb of 5 or so cloves when mature) to 2000! Of this, we will sell 1000 bulbs green in July, 500 dry through the fall, and we’ll plant the remaining 500 bulbs into our fields next November. We hope to keep building our planting stock up, which means we’ll be able to sell more and more each year. This is some amazing garlic! People get very pushy about the garlic when it makes it to our farmstand in July (most of it goes to chefs, I must admit, who put in their orders in January for hundreds of bulbs of green garlic!), because they don’t want to miss out. We’ve even had to withhold it from people we previously said we’d sell it to just to make sure that we can have enough to plant next year. Sorry if you happen to be one such person – we simply want to keep the crop growing so that we can sell it to you next year! The green garlic I mentioned earlier is so special because it is not as pungent as cured, or dry garlic, and it is soooooooo much easier to peel since you don’t have to deal with all those papery skins. Our garlic is particularly nice because the cloves are so huge, you don’t need to peel as many to get the requisite amount for a recipe. We are constantly amazed by how big these cloves are and estimate one clove to be on average the size of 3 normal sized cloves. Yum! We had our friend Gregory Poulin paint a couple of renditions of garlic for us, and the ones you see here on the blog are both his. His interpretaions of our scapes is a particular favorite. Sleep well, garlic – I’m already thinking about my favorite summer garlic recipes!

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