I have been tuning into Justin Rhodes and his sweet family on The Great American Farm Tour! If you want to join their adventure, here is a link to their you tube channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOSGEokQQcdAVFuL_Aq8dlg They are visiting amazing, out of the box, organic farms all over our great nation. The stories they capture on video are very inspiring and I pick up little kernels of wisdom every time I watch. However, I tune in for a different reason completely. At a time when the news is so unsettling, watching this family on their adventure reminds me that America is filled with amazing, good people. At the end of a hard day when violence is hitting alarmingly close to home, watching their story relaxes me and causes me to exhale with a deep sigh. It gives me hope. I will never turn down a dose of hope!
They recently visited Paul Gautschi, who is famous for the “Back to Eden” method of gardening. There were many things I took away from the tour of Paul’s amazing homestead. For one thing I have covered my backyard in wood chips, which was no easy feat. A huge thank you to my strong boys for helping me load and unload wood chips out of the bed of my pick up more than once! When your boys are older and have full busy lives with school, work and loves of their own, it means A LOT when they take time out to help mom scoop wood chips! Here is a link to a tour of Paul’s incredible garden: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSUxcsJDgJM
The other thing I took away from this prolific homestead is the statement; “Whenever you can get ahold of Italian heirloom seeds snatch them up and never let go!” Why? Because Italians are SERIOUS about their food!
This made me smile as I thought about my first garlic harvest this last June. My sweet neighbor/friend gifted me with heirloom garlic bulbs from Salo Italy. What makes this so special is that her sister’s married name is Salo and these bulbs were brought to the United States when her husband’s family immigrated to this great country more than a century ago! Every year this garlic has been planted and harvested and planted yet again. What an amazing gift!
It did occur to me, more than once, as I waited impatiently for my bulbs to mature under the ground. “What if this garlic, that has been passed down through generations, dies with me?! Yikes, no pressure!”
Not to worry it was a huge success! I added this delicious garlic to many a meal, but saved a few bulbs to sink into the earth this Fall. There are a few things about growing garlic that I learned.
GROWING GARLIC TAKES PATIENCE!
If you know me well, you know that this is something that I have little of!
- Garlic is going to be in the ground a LONG time. Think about it, your bulbs will be planted in October and SLOWLY mature through November, December, January, February, March, April, May to finally harvest in June! You must reserve that garden space just for garlic.
- If you pick your garlic out a little early it will look like a small onion bulb. No worries, just dice the test bulb you picked with scrambled eggs and wait a little longer. The magic happens at the end!
- The bed that you plant your garlic in is going to need GOOD drainage. Nothing is worse then wet rotting garlic!
- When you finally pick your garlic, to find beautiful large bulbs and you leave them in the shade to dry, DON’T forget them. No, it so wasn’t me that left my precious Salo garlic, which had been handed down through generations, in a torrential downpour! It wasn’t me either that let them dry out only to forget them AGAIN during another rainy period.
I had sauntered over to my neighbor’s house to shoot the breeze. I have to smile when I write sayings like this because my very literal thinking son always says’ “Mom, what does that even mean? It makes no sense. You simply cannot continue to utter things that make no sense at all!” This is when I try to fit the nonsensical saying into the conversation of the day as much as possible when I am talking to or in the presence of my son John. Oh, it drives him crazy! I admit, not the most mature approach, but he was a VERY stubborn toddler. Payback is oh so satisfying!
Back to shooting the breeze with my neighbor. Remember she was the one that gave me the garlic in the first place. She innocently asked me how our garlic was coming along. In this moment, it came back to me all in a rush, that I had dried the garlic and left it in the rain, rinse repeat, rinse repeat. I exclaimed loudly, “Oh Sweet Jesus, help me! I’ve killed the garlic!” I then rushed down the street leaving her standing there with a puzzled look on her face.
Despite myself, I grew garlic for the first time last year more or less successfully! Just this October I separated the cloves and planted them to begin my garlic adventure one more time. I planted them in raised beds about 4″ apart- 2″ down into the soil.
Maybe you don’t have heirloom Italian garlic passed down from generation to generation. Not to worry. Most garden centers or feed stores sell garlic bulbs in the Fall that will do well in your area. They will be growing throughout the Winter, so if you are not used to gardening in the Winter, don’t forget to water your garlic.
A couple of notes about garlic for you gardening nerds:
Hard neck garlic typically grows better in colder climates, although there are a few varieties that do o.k. here in Texas. Look for these varieties: ‘Burgundy,’ ‘Creole Red,’ and ‘Ajo Rojo. These garlics will send up a blossom ball or scape, which you should cut off and use in your cooking. This will send the energy down to develop the garlic bulb.
Soft neck garlic does better in Texas and will not sent up a bloom or scape. Softnecks produce 10 to 20 cloves with a pink tinge surrounded by a silvery skin. Look for varieties such as ‘California Early,’ ‘California Late,’ ‘Silverwhite,’ or ‘Silverskin.’ These are easy varieties to grow and store.
Which ever variety you decide to grow, after you harvest in early June, leave it in the shade OUT OF THE RAIN to let it dry out and cure. I hope I have inspired you to leave room in your garden for a clove or two of garlic!