Saturday, 22 September 2018

Planting in the Fall

Hi There! ;-) Thanks to someone's comment, I realized I've never actually wrote about planting garlic in the fall - A serious deficiency, as that is typically the best time to plant!
Right now I am quite busy, in the midst of planting, so I'll draw the outline and fill in more detail later:
First: Acquire good seed. Nice sized bulbs, undamaged and free of mold, from a local source. (Hardneck garlic is typically Ontario, or at least Canadian, so if it has a good strong stem in the middle that's one indication.)
Prepare your soil for planting (it generally doesn't need any special fertilizers unless you are concerned about the soil being poor quality just get it tilled and ready). Sun, or part sun seem to be ideal, although I've suspected that garlic can grow pretty good with part shade too.
Break the cloves apart - each one becomes a new plant. Plant them 3-4 inches deep, with the pointy end up - that's where the sprout emerges. Recommended distance for small spaces: 8 inches apart in a grid. Or, 6 inches apart in rows, 20 - 30 inches apart. I find hilling up the rows, or raising the bed a good idea for drainage and winter run off.

When to plant: I do it right now: Sept 20 - 25. Most people say that's too early. For me it works.
You can plant into October. I find November is a poor time to plant. Especially if we have a early winter, the roots don't have enough time to establish, and the bulbs can be small at harvest.

For keeping track of different varieties, a map kept in a safe place is the best insurance. Stakes can fall out or go missing or loose their marking over winter - use them anyway, but keep a map!
I do both, plus I grow very different kinds next to each other in the row, so that if the stake goes missing, I can still tell visually where the variety changed (a bio-marker, if you will).

If your garlic comes up before the snow flies - don't worry, I've had that happen quite a few years, and never had problems with the next harvest. If it doesn't come up, in the fall, and you are worried about the germ of the seed, you can always dig, very gently with your fingers and check on them (don't break off the shoot if it's there!) Otherwise, have patience, garlic is a survivor and you will find out in spring. Garlic emerges quite early, and grows quickly in spring.

Mulch is an option as well - both for winter protection and summer moisture conservation. I've used straw, hay and fall maple leaves to good effect. Just be sure the spout can get through the layer of mulch in April/May.
If you have rodent issues, apply the mulch after they are done making their nests - after freeze off in the late fall.

...I hope I didn't miss anything. It's back to planting for me!
All the best with your planting projects! Julie

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Thanks for making the Stratford Garlic Festival Great!

Hi there! We had a wonderful two days at the Stratford Garlic Festival last Saturday and Sunday. It is always great to talk to everyone and meet new people.
If anyone wants to be on our mailing list for next year, just send us an email with the subject as "Send me a catalogue next year!" Thanks.
A couple of our garlic strains sold out at the Festival, but there are still quite a few Porcelains and Marbled Purple Stripes in stock. And some Rocamboles and Creoles.  Please inquire if you are still looking for seed.

And, something I've been wanting to share: if any of you struggle with the tedium of peeling garlic, especially for a large event, like pickling garlic, preparing garlic for dehydrating, or roasting a forty-clove chicken! (A good meal choice to plan in after garlic planting, lol.) There is a simple trick that can make it easier to get, especially that thin sticky membrane off the cloves. Break the cloves apart, and JUST PUT THEM IN WATER! Tepid water works fine, soak for about five to ten minutes. the water loosens the clove skins and keeps them from breaking, so that once you get your paring knife under them, they come off all in one piece. This saves you time, no matter how much garlic you eat for lunch! And no gadget required.
Garlicky Regards, Julie

Monday, 27 August 2018

Stratford Garlic Festival Coming soon!

Less than two weeks until the Stratford Kiwanis Garlic Festival! We are getting our garlic, garlic bundles, potatoes, onions, and art ready to share with you. Hope to see you there!
Also note that if you can't make it to the Festival, and you want to place an order with us from the catalogue, we will be taking orders up until Thursday Sept 6th, and then starting again on Monday, Sept 10th. Any orders placed later than the 6th will be replied to on the 10th. Selection goes down after the Festival, so please try to order on or before Sept 6th. Thanks!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Garlic Harvest has Begun

Our new Seed Garlic Catalogue will be out in one month! (August 15th) 
I'll have it posted in the "Catalogue" page, replacing last year's list. 
 I expect we will have a very good harvest of Porcelains and Marbled Purple Stripes. All the other varieties look okay. This hot, dry weather has had an impact on the garlic, but all in all, it looks like a good year!

Just a note about harvest time: it probably will be a bit earlier than normal, but still make sure when you go to check on the plants that they are properly drying down from the bottom leaves, and not just from the leaf tips. It looks like they are drier than they really are in this weather, and it doesn't do to pull the bulbs out before the cloves are fully filled out. On the other extreme, don't dig them when the whole plant is crispy and dead - those leaves are wrappers covering the bulb! The bulb needs about three wrappers for good keeping, so at least three green(ish) leave are a must.
  I've dug all my Turbans, and am in the midst of digging the Asiatics, Artichokes, and some the small-bulbed Creoles, as well as a few Rocamboles.

If you happen to come out to the farm this fall to pick up a garlic order, be sure to look up at our barn roof. Last summer my Mother, Dianne (a sign painter from the pre-vinyl diecut days of hand lettering) went up there to paint this mural for us to enjoy as we work out in the garden.

You can see it from the road for a little bit, in between the trees, as you approach our farm from the East (if you are coming from Kitchener-Waterloo, say). 
In June I got a close up of it with a rare, dawn rainbow:

Thursday, 1 February 2018

A Great Breakfast Idea

A friend tried this interesting combination while feeling the incoming effects of the flu.
It's really good, actually, and very healthy, too!

  • Garlic, for anti-viral and immune boost.
  • Honey, being anti-inflammatory and healing.
  • Cinnamon, as a circulation stimulant.

I recommend it for any special breakfast or afternoon treat. Super simple to make.
Start with a fresh, hot slice of buttered toast.
Slather on some honey (garlic honey is pictured here, but that's not a necessary, since our next ingredient is fresh, crushed garlic). I advise spreading the honey first, so that your knife doesn't inoculate the honey pot with garlic flavour. Then, squeeze a fresh garlic clove through your favourite garlic press and spread that evenly over the honey and buttered toast. I suggest a nice flavourful Rocambole variety for early in the flu season. A small clove of Porcelain garlic works too. And for this time of year: whatever you have left in storage that hasn't been eaten already!
Top this off with a dash of Cinnamon.
And that's all!
Bon Appetit!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

A Video with the Stratford Garlic Festival

This Summer the Stratford Kiwanis Garlic Festival was looking for Vendors to participate in creating a short promotional video for the Festival. It was great fun to have Elizabeth Kerr and Scott Wishart come out to the Farm to shoot this little film, I hope you enjoy watching it.

It features myself and the garlic in our 2017, 1/2 acre plot.
You can also see the bulbil plants that I grew this year as part of an on-going seed renewal, and a small part of where we dry the garlic and store the garlic, inside a re-purposed granary in our 1911 bank barn.  -  Julie

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Garlic and It's Many Flavours

  I've been thinking about this story lately, and just wanted to share it:

  My older sister Sheri, who used to partner with me in growing the garlic, was going on a trip over to Germany with her boyfriend last November, to visit his family there. As they were weighing their backpacks for the airport, I went and got a couple jars of the garlic powder that I make. Not being able to travel with them, I wanted to at least be a small part of their trip, in the gifts they could share with the people they met.

  Thousands of years ago, travelers would carry garlic bulbs in their packs and trade them up and down the silk road, spreading new varieties of garlic throughout Europe. Following this tradition, but also respecting Airport security, a couple jars of my dried powder got nestled safely into Sheri's pack.

  After Germany, my sister and her boyfriend Tobias, toured eleven other countries in Europe, and at the end of their trip, flew out to the Spanish Island of Mallorca, where the sub-tropical climate had everything lush and green, with olives and oranges growing even at the start of January.

  One of the places they visited there was the home of a farmer and garlic grower. With her last bottle of garlic powder, Sheri traded some goodwill. She told me later that this fellow was fervently happy to receive, "Canadian Garlic!" He lifted the lid to gasp in delight at the sharp smell of it. Canadian garlic, he said, is so much stronger and more flavourful than what he can grow in Mallorca. He was a BC resident of Grand Forks, before moving to Mallorca, and missed the taste of home.

  Making this kind of connection with someone like that, I felt, was the best part of their trip, though Sheri raised a bemused eyebrow at me when I told her so. Sheri couldn't tell me what variety Sky was growing in Mallorca, but I can imagine that whatever kind it was, it just didn't get the right winter dormancy and probably had a whole different soil composition effecting the flavour.

  In Canada we grow many varieties that are both strong and flavourful, including Porcelain types, Purple Stripes and Rocamboles. Our cold winters and warm summers, and good soils make up for the rest of it.
  In Cuba, I've heard, it is hard for farmers to grow garlic bulbs much bigger than a golf ball, though the tiny cloves are greatly priced by the locals. They owe this mostly to their lack of winter weather, or so I'm led to believe.
  Personally, I have always been a little jealous of Spain and France, for that area of mainland Europe can grow massive bulbs of Creole garlic. I have been in love with creole garlic ever since I've read Filaree Farm's description of that variety in their catalogue. Now that I have acquired twelve creole strains to grow myself, I've nick-named them "pearls of the earth"; because they are special, with their pearly sheen and long keeping abilities; but also because they are quite small in size.
  There are other varieties that I grow in Ontario, without much success, that grow really well in other parts of the world. So isn't garlic fantastic! It has travelled with people almost everywhere they have gone on the globe, and as a species, calls many many places home.

  So what makes garlic flavourful?

  Well, sulphur is one of the most important elements of flavour in garlic (and other alliums). We see this most clearly in the story of Vidalia onions, those large, sweet baseballs that are only available in season. True Vidalias are grown in Vidalia, Georgia, where the low sulphur content of the soil accounts for the mild flavour of the variety. The sweetness, really, is there all along, Vidalias may have more of it than most kinds, but all garlic and onions have a high content of sugars in their bulbs, to help with freezing and over wintering, you just can't taste it because of the heat that so often accompanies and overpowers that sweetness. Notice too, that Vidalia oinions, and most other sweet varieties of onion, do not keep as well as cooking onions. This is also an effect of sulphur. Low sulphur content in the onion bulb, or garlic clove, can be a major contributing factor to poor storage quality.
  Elemental Sulphur requires biological soil life to convert it into a sulphate before it can be used by plants. I work with a crop and livestock consultant, who told me that other consultants in the States recommend almost twice the amount of sulphur be put on the fields as a mineral amendment, than what he would suggest for Ontario. The reason being that in southern climates, the soil life is active for a longer period of time than it is for us in Canada. The soil life uses that much more sulphur (and other minerals) for every growing season, as well as possibly getting more soil leaching from high rainfall. I imagine that if sulphur is not a priority in the fertilizer, one could get sulphur deficient soils much more easily in sub-tropical climates, and consequently, produce a milder, sometimes poorly flavoured garlic.

  It is not just sulphur though. Garlic, with it's high sugar content, and coarse root structure, relies quite heavily on soil life to make nutrients available to the growing plant. It needs certain things like Phosphorus, for energy and boron for making sugar, and the whole plethora of trace minerals to give it depth of flavour and keeping quality. Flavour is one of the most complex aspects of plant genetics, and no one has quite figured it out, but we do have a starting point.

  For an experiment I tested some garlic leaves for a few basic minerals last year. One batch was from heathy plants, and one from plants that were not doing so well, and were going to be culled soon. Here were the results:

Heathy Plants:                                              Unhealthy Plants:
80.2 % Moisture                                           81.0% Moisture  
19.8 % Dry Matter                                       19.0% Dry Matter
On a Dry Basis:                                             On a Dry Basis:
1.78% Calcium                                             2.25% Calcium

0.44% Phosphorus                                        0.32% Phosphorus

0.33% Magnesium                                        0.23% Magnesium

1.09% Potassium                                          1.37% Potassium

0.01% Sodium                                              0.01% Sodium

0.32% Sulfur                                                0.29% Sulfur

31 ppm Iron                                                  38 ppm Iron                                            

32 ppm Zinc                                                  23 ppm Zinc

10 ppm Copper                                              8 ppm Copper

15 ppm Manganese                                       13 ppm Manganese

4 ppm Molybdenum                                       2 ppm Molybdenum

  Samples were taken of the top leaf of numerous plants, cut and tested in mid June. As you can see, Calcium and Potassium are higher on the Unhealthy test, but almost all the of the other minerals are lower. It actually has a less balanced mineral profile, which may be a big part of flavour as well.