Thursday, August 4, 2011

Harvesting Garlic and Simple Lives Thursday

My summer break is wrapping up and soon it'll be time to head back to school.  I'm trying not to let it get to me, but the constant ads for new school clothes and Halloween candy at the grocery store are slowly increasing my anxiety about the coming weeks.  This baby girl is due in almost exactly two months.  That means she could be here as soon as six weeks from now, and as long as 10 weeks.  Truthfully I'd rather have the latter, but I'm prepared for anything at this point.
I'm spending these last precious days nesting and trying to relax.  My new shape is cumbersome, but I'm still running and walking as much as I can.  I'm thankful that this pregnancy has treated me so well so far, and while I'm not exactly excited about spending the rest of August and September gaining a pound a week and teaching three classes, I know that it will fly by and my ample support network will serve me well.
My favorite thing about break has been puttering in the garden in the early morning hours.  Normally I have to garden in the afternoon, after a hard day's work when my feet are tired and I still have dinner to get on the table.  These days, I get up and work out there while it's still cool and quiet and my mind is clear.
Yesterday I harvested the garlic that we planted in September.  I knew it was ready to harvest because the leaves had wilted and turned brown, and when I pulled a bulb out of the ground I could tell that the cloves had formed and were covered nicely with the white papery outside I expected.  Harvesting the garlic was totally thrilling to me, reminding me that, in spite of the world's urging that fall is coming and summer is over, the "I MADE THAT!" feeling of harvest is just beginning.
DSC03105The garlic was put in the ground so long ago as a first attempt, and those don't always go well.  With gardening, it helps to be prepared for everything to go wrong.  That way, when something does go right, it's the best kind of surprise.  In this case, one head of farmer's market garlic turned into eight small pungent heads.  Some of these heads will feed us, and some will go back into the ground.  This is another of my favorite parts of gardening: grow something, collect a part of it, and grow it again.  Food (and livestock) reproduces itself exponentially.  For free.  And all you need to unlock the process is a little knowledge and elbow grease.

Finally, another curiosity of this garlic experiment was The Neglected Clove.  As you might guess, things in the garden looked a little different in September than they did in spring when it was time to plant.  The compost heap moved a bit with its swelling borders under constant expansion, and the garden fence shifted as the flowers between it and the neighbor's fence grew.  When we planted the cloves in the fall, we of course failed to mark exactly where we'd planted them and how many there were.  (Embracing that surprise idea I suppose.)

The green stalks shot up in early spring and stayed bright and leafy until a week or so ago.  We watered them and kept them free of weeds as best as we could.  Sometime in June I noticed what I thought could be a garlic stalk growing two feet away from the rest, outside of the fence and behind the compost heap.  If you're a gardener, especially one who has established plots in an area where other plants once dominated, you know that a large part of the job is trying to identify unknowns as friend or foe.  We stared down the stalk and decided that it was close enough to garlic to justify not ripping it out of the ground, so we let it go all summer long, but we didn't tend to it at all.  (Truthfully, I forgot about it.)  We didn't weed around it or water it deliberately, and we did not even notice that it had presented a scape, the flower bud, so it was never removed.
When it came time to harvest, I rediscovered The Neglected Clove and recognized it as garlic immediately given the small seed pod that had dried on top of the stalk.  Even though it was clearly smaller than the others, I harvested it anyway to see what happens when you plant a garlic clove and just let it do its thing.  Turns out, this is what happens:
DSC03114It's about 1/4 of the size of the other bulbs.  The cloves still formed, though they were much smaller and less numerous.  Compare the root system of this head to those above and you might see why.  In this photo, you can see the seed head, another explanation for the restricted growth.  As I mentioned in my garlic scape post, if you don't remove the scape, the garlic gives a lot of its resources to producing the flower and seeds.  Here you can see the seed head a just how immature the bulb is.
I'm deeming the garlic experiment successful, and will never go another year without planting some of my own.  There's no way that I can make much of a dent in our garlic consumption, but the benefits of growing your own garlic are numerous and compelling.  I recommend growing garlic even if you aren't the most involved gardener because it was very little work.  It would also be an excellent activity to try with the kiddos, especially if you try different varieties and/or growing conditions.
The garlic should be stored in a cool dark place like a root cellar, tied up and hanging so it has ample air circulation.  Garlic must be 'cured' this way for at least a week before eating so the white paper around the cloves properly dries up and can protect them from rotting.
There has been more preservation going on around here!  I can't wait to tell you about my new pressure canner, but first I wanted to follow up on the dehydrator.  It was largely successful, specifically with the leafier herbs like sage and oregano.
The basil and chives were less successful, however, and just sort of wilted without fully drying.  I think the chives should be hung in bunches, much like the garlic,  and the basil frozen instead.
Finally, it's time for Simple Lives Thursday!  I'm still reading new blogs and getting to know new people from our twitter chat.  If you don't already, follow me at @culinarybliss, say hi, and I'll be happy to follow you back.  If you want to see more pictures and hear more about what's happening daily at my house/garden, 'like' my blog on Facebook here.
For now, check out this week's featured posts and link up your own!

Featured Posts from Last Week's Submissions

SLT Featured Post Badge

We really enjoy reading your posts each week! Featured post bloggers, please grab the badge above and display it on your site! Link it to one of the host blogs' posts for the specific week that you were featured.

Here are our picks from last week's submissions. Thanks to all who participated -- it is always hard to choose!

1. Cooking for Beginners: Garlic by Ruth's Real Food. "Oh my, the smell and taste of fresh garlic. Almost every savory dish is enhanced by its pungent taste. Fresh garlic is definitely one ingredient you’ll want to incorporate into your cooking." Ruth covers how to purchase, store, peel and even use garlic. We're reposting this from last week because we got the link code wrong; many of you couldn't get over there to read it.

2. My Kitchen Garden by Life In Green. "A kitchen garden (also called a potager) is a separate area of your outdoor space that has a planned design and layout where you grow veggies, herbs and flowers." Check out this blogger's lovely potager!

3. The Wonders of Kombucha! by Mexican Wildflower. "Want a to learn to make a “hip” drink that is delicious, beneficial for your health and that cost mere pennies to make?" Try Kombucha!

4. How to Filet Wild Alaskan Salmon by Homemade Alaska. A wonderful photo tutorial on fileting salmon.

5. Sowing Seeds The Easy Way by The Cheerful Agrarian. "I have to give credit for this idea to my Grandma Ada, via my dad. Whenever the topic of planting spinach came up (which, oddly, it did every so often . . .) he would tell me, "Ma always used to just let her spinach go to seed when it got hot out, and then the next spring she'd have the earliest spinach of anybody we knew!"

1 comment:

juliecache said...

garlic is so easy, isn't it? love having garlic in the garden.

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