Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Sizing it up Before Harvest

So, this is a question I ask myself every year:
Is this variety of garlic ready to be dug?
 I ask myself this roughly one-hundred times in the last weeks of July, and all the way into August, as I have quite a few varieties. After twelve years of growing garlic to sell, I still get nervous about when to dig.
It's a ticklish thing, you want the bulb to be nice and mature, but you want it to also have keeping quality and nice layers of wrappers so that it is salable and pretty.
The fail-safe way is to count the leaves, I think. Most bulbs will have six to eight leaves, and if about three of the bottom leaves are drying down, you can be sure it's not just a drought causing that - it's ready!
40-50% of those bottom leaves, dry or yellow, that's the clue.
If you look at the whole plant, it should be more green than yellow, because the dry leaves get smaller in appearance.

Sometimes within the row there will be some variation of when the plants are ready, even if it's the same variety, (In my case, out in the field with 400 foot long row, that variance can sometimes be caused by tile drainage, as in, where the soil was nice and the garlic did better, and so is larger, greener and later) but the variance should be pretty minimal. If a few odd plants are yellow, and the rest looks green, well, that could be diseased plants that are suffering, so don't go digging up the whole row thinking they must be ready, in that case.
Always be gentle with the bulbs. They bruise if handled roughly. It may not show up right away, but cloves that are damaged might mold or dry up later.
For Pictures and a more detailed explanation of how and when to dig, as well as some calendar dates to shoot for, see the blog archive 2015  "Harvesting Garlic" July 11.

You can usually tell early on how big the harvested bulb will be, based on how thick, or big around the neck of the plant is. Although, a few varieties have odd bulb - to - plant size ratios and can have really thick necks, with puny bulbs, or vice versa. Purple Stripes come to mind, they can have large plants with smallish bulbs. Turbans on the other hand can have respectively large bulbs compared to how thin and tiny the plant looks.)
Turbans seem to keep better if they are harvested early - as in, when only one to two leaves are dry.
In some kinds of soils the wrappers of Turbans and Asiatics will also split if left in the ground as long as other garlic, so be mindful of that.
And where you put them to dry does have some importance as well. Keep them out of direct sun - that can cause the cloves - which are actually "storage leaves", to turn green, same as an onion or potato might,( they are blanched by being under ground while growing, so they are white/cream coloured and need to stay that way). Indirect or artificial lighting is fine. Direct sunlight can also "cook" them, and excessively high temperatures can also cause the cloves to deteriorate (Something called Waxy Breakdown) so try to avoid places that lock hot air into the drying area when you are choosing a spot for drying your garlic. A box fan or oscillating fan and an intake/out take are all that's needed to keep air moving in the drying shed.
I always recommend the slow way of drying garlic - with the whole stalk attached until it is cured and dry. Any home gardener can do this method, it's easy to make bundles of 8 -10 bulbs and hang them somewhere, or lay them out on racks or in open baskets. It takes about two and a half to three weeks, depending on the size of the garlic and how dry the air is, and you have a better product from it.
The flavour of fresh dug garlic is hot, juicy and simple, so it is best to wait until the whole plant is dried down anyway. Garlic tastes the best about two months after it's dug - it reaches a maturity of flavour that brings out depth and character, and then it begins to very slowly decline into the winter months, eventually tasting simple and firey again, but dry, instead of juicy.

Well, I must go out and check on a few of the early varieties again, even a day or two can make a difference in how they look. I've dug a few Turbans already, but nothing else, so I'm wondering if the harvest will be a bit late this year.

All the best with your harvest! I hope it's a good one! Julie

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Scape Season - A little late, but not unusually so

It is soon time to cut your garlic scapes, if you haven't done so already. I've been getting a few emails of people wondering if their scapes should be out by now, or if they are unusually late. By now, yes, they should be out and starting to droop into their first coil, (unless you have a softneck variety which doesn't normally produce scapes). And yes, this year the scapes in my area are late. My Porcelains are finally starting to make a soft coil.

  If you also experienced a cold wet spring in your area, then things were probably slow to get going. Garlic Harvest can be as much as about two weeks later on a wet cool year, or two weeks earlier on a hot dry year, that's just how it is. Scapes seem to track the daylight patterns better (Summer Soltice being the initiation of the scape production in the plant), but they can still be a week or so later or sooner than usual.
For Porcelain type Garlic, July 6th is my benchmark for cutting scapes - note that that is for getting rid of the scape, not for eating it, as I let my scapes get a bit woody and stiff when the main focus is for bulb quality.
It looks to me like July 6th will be a good time for me to cut my eating scapes this year, so we could be about a week late...[Correction as of July 4th, Turns out scapes really do come at about the same time every year, all this heat maybe sped them up, I'm going say they are just a couple days late this year. My Porcelain scapes are ready to eat now, and a few are a tad over mature. LOL, maybe they were late to show up, but they made up for it once they got going.]

One of my favourite things to do with scapes is to use them in a beautiful Korean recipe for fermented scape sauce. As with most beautiful things, it's really simple:
2 parts Soy Sauce (no wheat soy sauce if it needs to be gluten free)
2 parts vinegar (pickling strength 5%)
1 part sugar
Fresh Garlic Scapes
Combine the first three ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cool.
Meanwhile, cut flower end off of the garlic scapes and chop into fine pieces (you can cut into 2 inch lengths and feed into a food processor if you like, otherwise 1/8 inch (or 3 mm) pieces).
Pack scapes into large, clean, (preferably sterile) jars. You need to make enough of the soy sauce mixture to cover however many jars you want to make.
Cap the jars loosely and let sit for 1 week, at room temp.
Strain juice off. Boil juice, cool and add back to jars.
This sauce can be consumed fresh, from the fridge for a couple weeks.
  Or, you can follow this next step for preserved sauce, and enjoy all year round (they make great gifts, then you can woo even the garlic critics and get them addicted to garlic too! Make sure you make enough to last until the next garlic scape harvest!) :
After the one week fermentation period, Empty the jars into a sauce pan or stock pot, and boil down, releasing as much juice as you can until the sauce begins to thicken a little.
Pack hot into sterile canning jars: like you would do with jam, leave a 1/8 inch space at the top, below the lid, and fingertip tighten the canning lids. Set jars to cool with a dish towel laid over them to prevent drafts from creating a premature seal. Make sure all jars are sealed before storing.
This stuff makes excellent sauce to use on roast meat, sandwiches, with grilling, etc.

Garlicky Regards, Julie

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!