We eat a lot of garlic around here. So naturally, working with Jean & Leo of Blue Moon Farm at the farmers' market all season (garlic is their specialty!), made me want to plant my own this year. A couple of weeks ago I bought 1.5 lbs of Music garlic - that translates to roughly 90 cloves. Since then, I've been waiting for the wacky fall weather to coordinate some sun with my days off. Today was beautiful - cool but sunny - perfect garlic planting weather.
Garlic is planted in the fall and harvested the following June. Prior to planting, the cloves are separated from the bulb. The paper is left on and the cloves are planted, pointy end up, 4-6 inches apart. I learned a trick while planting garlic at work Thursday: just take a tomato stake, poke a 3-inch hole in the soil, and pop your garlic in. Quick and easy! A thick layer of mulch and viola! The garlic is ready to rest through the winter. In the spring, the garlic will germinate and grow and once harvested, you'll have amazing, fresh garlic that will last all year. (Fresh garlic, if stored properly, has a shelf life of anywhere from 5-7 months, sometimes longer.)
Music is a hardneck variety with a strong flavor and large cloves that are easy to peel. I don't know about you, but trying to peel tiny cloves of garlic when I'm in a rush is just about enough to make me crazy. Unlike softneck varieties (often made into garlic braids), hardneck garlic produces a "scape" or flower. When the scape has formed, simply clip it off to send more energy down to the bulb. Scapes are like an added bonus: they have a delicious garlic flavor and can be used in everything from salads to pesto. Word to the wise: if you are having garlic scape pesto (Jean & Leo make a mean garlic scape pesto that you can find at Goodfoods Co-op) make sure everyone has some. Otherwise you'll wonder why no one wants to talk to you after the hors d'oeuvres are served. It's not as strong as eating a clove of raw garlic, but it packs a wallop. Your date is likely to notice.
This year we found these volunteer garlic bulbs next to the compost pile.
Next year I'm hoping to have around 80-90 good-sized bulbs. That should last us a while!
Note: Because grocery store garlic is treated to keep it from sprouting, you can't plant it. If you're interested in planting your own garlic, check out Jean & Leo's web site. They have some amazing seed garlic for sale and can ship anywhere in the US. They also have garlic powder and some beautiful (and famous!) garlic braids.
Seriously folks, once you've had fresh garlic, there's really no turning back.