It’s garlic harvest time here in Elsinore! Over the past few weeks, our garlic patch has “ripened” from a patch of healthy deep green garlic plants to a patch of yellowing, drying drooping plants ready for harvest. Aside from hay and some grain, garlic is the largest crop we grow here on the farm (unless you call lambs a “crop!”), and it is always such a suspense-filled time when we dig and pull the first few garlic bulbs from the ground. Are they fully mature? Did they escape damage from pests? Are the bulbs pleasantly big and plump? Are their papery skins intact? This year the answer to all of these is a resounding “YES!”
The last couple of weeks have been so full of action here on the farm that I hardly know where to start. Given that there is one happening that is especially satisfying, I’ll stick to that. It’s harvest time! And not just any harvest, either. It’s time for garlic – the “stinking rose,” – to make its way from the farm to the table. I can’t wait!! Oh, and just in case you were wondering, those strong hands you see in the photo above are my husband’s. He’s been the main harvest guy this year. It’s wonderful.
July is heating up here in Utah, as it seems to be all over the country from what the weather “news” is reporting. This year our weather here seemed to go from (VERY) cool and cloudy in general here to hot, hot, HOT without any “spring” in-between. We have been watching our garlic plants closely for signs of harvest-readiness, and this week they all arrived – withering leaves and all. In either July or August for the past five years, our garlic patch has been ready to harvest, and this year is no exception.
Why garlic, you ask? Well…ever since I saw MaryJane’s garlic patch on her farm (and, I can’t believe it, but that was five years ago), I was smitten. I had traveled to Moscow, ID, to MaryJanesFarm to do a farm “internship” during a week-long session of her “Pay Dirt” farm school. That week was truly a pivotal one in my life. My oldest boy wasn’t even two years old, and I had only left him overnight once before, so I was nervous about being away, but I was even more excited to learn about MaryJane and organic farming. Oh, boy, I have so much to say about that week that I’d better save the story for another time. For today, just know that among all of the many things I learned about dirt, farms, equipment, beauty, good food and, of course, the Farmgirl way of life, I learned to grow garlic.
When I arrived at MaryJanesFarm, the garlic patch had already been harvested and put up in the barn to dry and cure. Let me tell you – the sight of all of those lovely garlic bulbs hanging from the inside of a nice red barn was just incredible. I’d never seen an entire garlic plant before – just the bulbs themselves at the market. The plant was actually very pretty – a sort of “ruggedly elegant” plant, if plants can be that way. I loved it. Not only that, but when I considered that really, SO many foods and recipes that I use call for garlic, it seemed like such a sensible crop to experiment with. After that first year’s planting, growing and harvesting, my garlic-loving spouse and I were hooked. Garlic’s been growing strong here ever since! Thanks, MaryJane! (Oh – and if you want to see the garlic harvest at MaryJanesFarm, check it out: http://www.maryjanesfarm.tv/FarmRomance.asp then scroll down and click on “garlic harvest.”)
For us, garlic is a wonderful crop timing-wise. The major work of planting takes place in the late summer or autumn, when most of the other crazy spring and summer work is nearing an end. Then in the spring, we can concentrate on the million and a half other springtime things that need attention – namely lambing (another WAY exciting time around here). Then, just when the air begins to get that hint of spring, the bright green garlic leaves poke up. They look so refreshing after a long winter – and they never fail to send my wintertime cabin-fever into overdrive. It is SO satisfying to see the results of last autumn’s planting. Midsummer comes along, and the garlics have grown, “scaped-out” and the leaves are yellowing.
Next comes the harvest. Garlic is a delicate bulb, and rough handling and sunlight can damage it. That being the case, each one of our bulbs are harvested by hand (big hands, little hands…) and placed in the shade until they are hung in the garage to dry.
Garlic is a labor-intensive crop, but we love it – and William (above) really likes using the potato fork to dig them up. I just love seeing my boys working in the garden and on the farm. They are to very “into” what they are doing, no matter what it is – gathering eggs or harvesting garlic. During this harvest, Will has been referring to the garlic bulbs as, “guys,” and putting them in piles with their, “friends.”
I’d like to suggest, too, that garlic harvesting – as well as garlic eating – may actually be good for you. Aside from the exercise of the physical part, not one of the four of us has gotten sick during harvest time (hmmmmm… coincidence?). I’ve been doing an experiment with garlic also, and it has an unhappy ending (at least for me). Although all four of us smell like garlic inside and out, we are still being snacked on by mosquitos. I thought that maybe our “garlic essence” would do the trick, but, alas, it was not to be so.
Oh, and did I mention that I had help baking a cake this last week, too? It was my husband’s birthday, and Arthur wanted to help me “make Dad a yummy cake.” He was in charge of the flour, and he did a great job. It doesn’t matter if you have pants on or not if you’re wearing a John Deere apron, right? Ah – to be three again…
*Smile* As I was proofreading this blog entry, I realized that I misspelled “family” as “farmily.” Well, now, come to think of it, maybe that will be my new word to describe all of us here – including the cow, horses and various creatures that live here. A farmily. I like it.