Harvesting the Garlic

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The garlic is dug and drying!

Digging it up, it was hard to remember how it was when we planted it back in October.  We were wearing coats and boots, for pete’s sake!  In contrast, when we harvested it just two days ago, some of us were barefoot and the rest of us were wearing the least amount of clothes we could respectably get away with!
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Jasper was taking a nap across the field, and so I made the girls help me, like any good mother would.  I did the delicate work of digging the bulbs out without somehow slicing into them, Avery broke up the dirt lodged in their roots, and Iris stacked them all on the brick wall of the herb garden next to us.

I was so proud of them.  It was hard work,  and it was hot, but we got them all out – over 200 bulbs – and then spread them out in the greenhouse to dry and cure for the next couple of weeks to a month.

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There is so much good information out there when it comes to harvesting garlic, and I’m not going to repeat it all here.  Instead, I’ll just tell you what I did.

I stopped watering the garlic about two weeks ago, and waited to dig them up until the leaves on the bottom part of the stalk began to turn yellow and dry.  If I’d waited any longer (like I did with some of my elephant garlic, whomp whomp) the cloves would have started to separate and wouldn’t store well, not to mention they would have tasted quite woody.

After it’s cured in the greenhouse, (which isn’t ideal but is the only space I had) I’ll cut off the stalk and roots, then store them in a mixture of mesh bags and wire baskets.  Hopefully, if all goes well, I’ll be able to keep and use these for 6-8 months, or maybe even longer.

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Avery asked me what we’re going to do with all this garlic.  We’ll eat a lot of it ourselves to be sure; I usually add one or two cloves to whatever I’m cooking for dinner.  Plus, I’ll add some to all the pesto and tomato sauce I’ve yet to make.

And of course I’ll pick out 100 or so of the best cloves to plant again in the fall.

But a lot of it I plan on giving away, too.  There’s nothing quite like sharing the bounty (and the gift of garlic breath) with friends and loved ones.


Lazy Potatoes


I didn’t plant any potatoes this year, much to my chagrin.  The spring was much too wet, and we didn’t have anywhere to store a potato harvest, anyway.  I’ve got big plans for next year’s potato planting, but this year it just made more sense not to grow any.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t harvested any potatoes this year, though!

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We planted a lot of potatoes last year, and in the mad rush that was harvesting we apparently forgot a few.  Those forgotten potatoes somehow, miraculously, made it through the wettest winter on record without rotting, and then started making new potatoes!

In the ensuing months we rototilled over them; we mowed down their greens instead of mounding them up; we may have even covered them with tarp at some point in a futile attempt to kill off the weeds.

And yet, walking through the garden one afternoon, distracted by thoughts of fall planting, what should my feet accidentally kick up but little red potatoes!  Potatoes that were practically pushing themselves out of the ground.

There were just enough good ones to make a delicious potato salad!

Next year I’ll be back to planting potatoes, since I’ll have a place to cure and store them.  But for now, thank goodness for last year’s potatoes.  A gift that just keeps on giving.

Midsummer in the Garden

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The middle of July.  Already.

I remember as a child July seemed to stretch on and on, but now it seems no longer than an exhaled breath or the vaporish after-image of a firework hanging in the sky.  I’m unenthusiastic about marking the days off on the calendar – I think I might like a do-over; I’d like for it to maybe be the middle of May again, instead – but the days come and go with no thought to me or my wishes.

That said, the weather has been like a dream.  Avery and Iris asked why it wasn’t cold and rainy, and I told them it was because it’s summer.  This is the way it’s supposed to be!  They looked at me incredulously.

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So.  How is the garden doing?

Technically, I’m only actually growing a handful of things this year.  Hard-necked garlic, elephant garlic and Ruby Red onions. Tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and eggplants.  So far they are all doing well.

I’ve been busy spreading well-rotted manure and fish emulsion along the onion row.  Onions are voracious eaters, and all the extra amendments will help them bulb up nice and big.  I’ve also been trying to water them regularly, although how often we get out to the farm can be kind of sporadic.  In general, I think I’m watering about every two days or so.

In contrast, I’ve stopped watering the garlic.  I’m hoping to harvest them at the end of the month, and I want them to start drying out in the ground.  If I kept watering them, they could rot.  They’re tricky like that.  I’m doing the same with the elephant garlic, although I’ll miss having their flowers gracing the garden.

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In the greenhouse the tomatoes are huge, more than six feet tall, and they would keep going but I preemptively cut them off once they reached the top of their guide line.  I’ve let tomato vines top 10 feet before and it turned out to be a mistake.  I couldn’t reach the top and they got monstrous with suckers and heavy fruit, and before I knew it the whole vine ended up breaking in half.  Live and learn.

We’ve been snacking on the Sungold tomatoes constantly.  I feel a little guilty about not saving them to bring home for a salad or some other culinary purpose, but they are just too good not to eat immediately!  I also got to try the first Indigo Cherry Drop and it was delicious!  This variety seems perfect for a caprese salad.

The bigger-fruited heirloom tomatoes are still ripening.  I’m practicing patience and thinking of all the tomato and spaghetti sauce I’ll be making next month.
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Out in the fields, the apples and plums and nuts are ripening on the trees in surprising numbers.  We thought they might not fruit this year because of the heat from the fire, but we were wrong.  Instead, it looks like we might have a bumper crop.

The marionberries are turning a nice plum purple and I’ve started picking them (with exuberance!), although I’m eating far more than I’m bringing home to preserve.  I need to clear out the grass growing around the bottom of the fence where they’re growing and plant more canes.  These things are delectable and I want more!

Standing in the garden, surrounded by the things that are growing, it occurs to me how lucky I am, how blessed to be there amid the growing and the greening.  The winter was hard, the spring harder still, but the summer is a dream.

The First Tomato!

0629 tomato.jpgThe first homegrown tomato of the summer!  There is nothing better.

It was the grey and cold of early March when I planted the seed that sprouted into a six-foot-tall vine that budded a flower that grew into this little round burst of sunshine.  March!  Looking back, I had unimaginable and boundless faith back in March.  Faith in tiny seeds and warmer days.  And that faith was surely tested a few times in the last four months but I’m here now, proven and rewarded.

The first tomato of 2017 was again a Sungold F1 Hybrid.  Possibly the best tasting snacking tomato the world has ever known.  In my opinion, anyway.

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It’s quite a bit later than last year, and I’m a little surprised by that since I’m growing all the tomatoes in the greenhouse this year.  We did have a pretty terrible winter though, so I suppose I should cut the tomatoes some slack.

The rest of the tomatoes – the Polish Linguisas, the Pink Berkley Tie Dyes, the Brandywines, the Indigo Cherry Drops, and the San Marzanos – are growing large but are still green, for now.  Give them another week or two (or three) and they’ll be ready, too.  Give them another month, and I’ll be absolutely overwhelmed; my counters overflowing with these jewels of the garden.

Notes | 7.2.17

0702 eggs.jpgOne of our hens laid a pretty brown egg covered with white speckles.  I’ve never seen one like it before.  I think it’s from Amelia Cordelia, our three-year-old Cuckoo Marans, since there were also her tell-tale brown spots on it.  I’m pretty sure the white spots are calcium deposits, brought on by her advanced (for a chicken) age.  The other usual suspect is poor nutrition, but as the chickens’ diet is organic feed, kitchen scraps, bugs, and whatever else can be foraged on an acre, I’m pretty sure that’s not the reason.

We found two other very normal looking eggs.  One blue, and one brown.  I know there is more laying going on, as I can hear their triumphant cackles and songs all morning long, but for the life of me I can’t find them.  There’s probably still some egg-eating going on, unfortunately.  We’re going to have to figure something out soon.

0702 raspberriesI weeded around the raspberry canes yesterday.  There won’t be many berries this season, but some.  Enough to whet the appetite, anyway.  There are a lot of primocanes (first year growth), so next year’s harvest is shaping up to be more productive.  As long as I can keep the deer away, anyway.

My plan for today is to spread a good layer of manure around the canes, and mulch heavily.  I’m not sure when that was last done – certainly not in the last three years – so I think it’ll be appreciated.  I should do the same thing to the marionberries, and the blueberries too, I suppose.

Sigh.  The works seems never-ending sometimes.  The weeds unstoppable; the needs of vegetation surprisingly high-maintenance.  But then I imagine the fruits of these labors, plump and sweet next summer in a bowl of cream or straight off the vine, and the rewards seem worth it after all.

That Time of Year

0626 garlic scapes 1We had the best gift waiting for us when we got back from our vacation: the garlic scapes were ready!

If you don’t know, if you’ve somehow missed the discussions and articles by gardeners or foodies the world over, scapes are the long, curly flower stalks of hard-necked garlic varieties.  Cutting them off directs more energy into clove production, so harvesting scapes is really a win-win situation for all involved.  Scapes have a slightly milder taste than normal garlic, and a nice crisp texture.  They can be used just like garlic, or grilled whole or chopped up and added fresh to salads, soups, pizzas, dips, etc.  There’s just so much you can do with them, and they are so good.

They are also fleeting.  Utterly ephemeral.

June is scape season, and it only lasts a week or two at most.  They’re best to harvest while small and tender.  Wait too long and they get tough and woody.  Wait even longer than that and, well, they become flowers.  If you haven’t cut them from your own garlic already, get yourself to the garden, the nearest farmer’s market, co-op or CSA stand as soon as you can, because by next week they’ll probably be gone.

0627 garlic scapes 2We didn’t get quite as many scapes as we did last year, mostly because back then the garlic had basically been growing wild for a few years.  They produced a lot of plants, but not very good bulbs.  So last October we dug up and replanted the best looking cloves, about 200 of them, to get a better harvest.  Even so, it was more than enough to make and freeze 8 pints of garlic scape and basil pesto.

I usually use all my garlic scapes to make pesto with.  It is delicious, with just a touch more bite to it than traditional pesto.  And I then use it at least weekly in all sorts of ways, namely on pizza, with pasta, and in homemade tomato soup.  But this year I wanted to try some different recipes (like this and this and this) with the scapes, so I kept back about half of them.  Then, because I’m not going to do all that cooking right away, I chopped the scapes into 1/2 inch pieces, steam blanched them, and froze them.  I ended up with a 1/2 gallon bag full, and I’m excited to have them to use throughout the year!

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  • 1 fistful of garlic scapes, washed and diced (about 12-20 scapes, depending on how garlicky you want your pesto)
  • 1 fistful of basil leaves (or chard)
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 splash of lemon juice
  • 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

First, add the garlic scapes to the large bowl of a food processor and pulse these until they’re fairly smooth.  You’ll probably have to scrape down the sides of the bowl fairly often.

Next, add the basil, pine nuts, salt and lemon juice.  Again, pulse until fairly smooth.

Add the Parmesan and process until completely mixed in.

Lastly, you will want to slowly pour in the olive oil while the processor is on.  It should turn into a nice smooth paste.

Make sure to taste it, and adjust accordingly!

Note: To store my pesto, I line muffin tins with silicone muffin liners, and fill them with pesto, usually about 2 tablespoons worth.  Then I freeze them.  Once frozen, I can pop them out of the muffin liners and store them in a freezer bag. 


Notes | 6.26.17

0627 catmint.jpgOnly two eggs today.  Utterly ridiculous.  I don’t think they’re eating them, but I do think they’re hiding them somewhere.  The question, of course, is WHERE?!

I also planted pink catmint (nepeta nervosa) and purple coneflowers (echinacea purpurea) in a new flowerbed on the farm.  I’m so excited to see them grow.  Regular catmint, Walker’s Low, is one of my favorites, so I was ecstatic to see this different variety at the store.  It doesn’t seem to have the same smell as Walker’s Low, and the flowers are dissimilar in that they’re clustered along a bulbous head instead of singly along the stalk.  But.  They’re catmint.  I still expect raucous blooms and for my cats to be delighted by them.

Elsewhere, the blueberries on the bushes have turned purple but not blue yet.  The raspberries are doing well also, rebounding after getting rather eaten by the deer earlier in the month.  The marionberries though!  They are so abundant this year!  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many marionberries before, and I’m not sure why they’re doing so well when everything else has done so poorly.  A quirk of the universe; the vagary of the gods, I suppose.