A little over two weeks ago I pulled the garlic out of the ground. That’s very early for here, but the leaves were turning brown and it was ready to go. I think the very mild winter probably had something to do with it. I left it on the back porch to cure, and yesterday morning I brought my coffee out to the porch and set to work trimming the stalks.
Last October I planted two kinds of garlic (German Extra Hardy and Music, I think) from bulbs I bought at the farmer’s market. It was my first time growing garlic and I really didn’t give a whole lot of thought to how much I should plant. After I harvested it I immediately regretted not planting twice as much. I think I started out with about 30 or so plants, and after pulling a few early for green garlic, and eating some fresh and giving a couple away, I’m down to 21 heads.
For the most part I’m pretty happy to eat whatever fruits and vegetables are in season at any given time, and I’m lucky to live in a place where there’s no shortage of locally grown produce. I don’t really miss zucchini or cucumbers in the winter, and I can get winter squash and kale and potatoes and onions at the farmers market straight through to spring. But I cook with garlic just about every day, and the local supply always seems to be depleted by late fall. There’s really nothing sadder than those pathetic heads of supermarket garlic in the winter, that are usually grown half way around the world and are already half rotten or sprouting by the time you buy them.
The other thing about garlic is that it couldn’t be easier to grow. Maybe I am naive and there are all sorts of garlic woes I have yet to encounter, but as far as I can tell there’s really not much to it. You plant cloves of garlic in the fall and mulch them well with straw. Then the next summer you have garlic. No squash bugs or flea beetles or late blight or blossom end rot to contend with. It kind of makes me want to grow nothing but garlic next year.
I probably won’t go that far, but I am going to be sure to plant enough to see me through the year. Today I ordered seed garlic from Filaree Farm, two pounds in a mix of hardneck and softneck varieties. Hardneck varieties are hardier and easier to peel, and many people say they are more flavorful. Softneck garlic keeps much longer, so if you want to have garlic to last all year, it’s good to have some of each. It’s hard to think about fall planting in July, but now is the time to do it if you want to order seed garlic. It sells out quick!