Category Archives: garlic

garlic grader

it’s time for garlic cleaning – and that means grading garlic too.  what’s grading?  it’s sorting for size.  why would you want to sort for size?  cause if you are gonna use the garlic you harvest to replant, the size impacts how many row feet it will plant.  how’s that?  pretty simple, with the variety we mainly plant “music” you can plan on at least 6 good cloves on average per head.  2″ wide heads equal about 60 cloves per pound – which means at 6″ spacing, 2″ wide garlic heads will plant about  30 row feet.  you move up to 2.25″ garlic and you are only getting 42 cloves per pound, the bigger the heads the less amount of row feet.

garlicgraderthis means that if you are planning out how much garlic to save to replant for next year, or tell someone to buy, that size does matter.  but is bigger better?  i’m not really sure – i am convinced that larger cloves make bigger heads than little cloves, but does it matter if it comes off of really big heads?  this is pretty inconclusive.  in the past i planted seed from the largest heads, but from year to sometimes had bigger heads sometimes smaller.  overall i’ve come to decide that the most important thing is timing of planting, fertility, openness of soil, spacing, and moisture.  still i plan to try to track this year at home (where i have much more control over what gets harvested and what gets planted) the yield based on head size.

do you need a grader?  unless you are growing a lot of garlic then, no, but they don’t take too long to make, and it is fun to know how big yr heads are.

spring grown garlic harvest

in case you were wondering, and even if you were not, the spring planted garlic did just fine.  a bit on the small side, but i was able to harvest more than enough to keep my seed stock going, as well as enough for eating.

garlicit has been curing in the shed for the last few weeks – and is ready to get cleaned up, though knowing me, i won’t bother to until i plant in october.  what can i say i’m busy.

garlic scape solution

we are swimming in garlic scapes right now.  if you grow hardneck garlic and you pop the scapes, you end up with a lot of scapes you might not know what to do with.  ma and i always try to use them, and eventually we do, but it’s usually a forced effort.  this year we sat down and talked about just what we were gonna do to deal with all those scapes.  for more info on scapes read this.

from left to right – vinegar, pickles, and pesto

when dealing with the scapes i usually discard the spiky tops and the woody bottoms.

for the vinegar we roughly chopped up the scapes and cover them with white wine vinegar.  leave them for a couple of weeks to flavor and then give the vinegar a taste.  if you want more garlic leave them longer.  you can eat the garlic that’s been soaking or discard if you prefer.  the vinegar is great in salad dressings.

for  pickles, we rough chopped the scapes and covered them with brine.  a couple tablespoons in a quart of water i would guess.  it tastes pretty salty.  then use a half pint jar to keep them all under water.  only a day into the process and they are bubbling nicely and making a layer of scum i’ve skimmed off already.  i’ll taste them in a couple of weeks and see how i like them.  if they taste good then i’ll throw them in the fridge, if not i’ll let them go longer.  i’m actually thinking i’ll blend them up and make a garlic pickle sauce.  i imagine it being great over brown rice with kale.

the fanciest of the bunch is the pesto.  first we sautéed the scapes in plenty of tasty olive oil.

since the scapes can be a bit stringy and tough i wanted to make sure they were cooked and tender, it also infused the oil with garlic favor.

add to this some parsley

and some lemon zest and the juice of a lemon.

and some toasted walnuts and a little salt and you have one wonderful batch of pesto.

we served it over fresh homemade pasta with the first peas out of the garden, some onions caramelized in dandelion mead, and a little mint.

any other good ideas for garlic scapes?

overwintered crops

despite some pretty horrific damage from massive snow loads, we have had some success with our over wintered crops.

spinach ready to harvest.

garlic greens about 6 gauge diameter right now.  these are the same ones we planted last fall. they seem to have sized up nicely, but the big question i have is will they do well at market?  and how many more weeks before they seem to be of marketable size?

certainly overwintering seems worth it, it’s just a matter of getting our act together around supporting the plastic.

garlic bulbils finally find their home

i’ve given updates several times over the progress of the garlic bulbils in the greenhouse.  i’ve been fretting as to if they would sprout or not, and once they sprouted i fretted that they wouldn’t be big enough to plant out in time before it got really cold and ground froze.  this week we planted them out.

they have sized up nicely, the largest about the size of big leek seedlings.

the roots have developed really well and the plants look good and strong.  i did neglected to harder these off, which may make for a difficult time for them, but the greenhouse they have been growing in is unheated, so at least they haven’t been pampered too much.

four rows, 5 inches apart, plants about every three inches, about an inch and a half deep.  i think we could have planted them even tighter, but since it’s an untried crop i just wanted to plant the one bed and see how they did and then decide if to plant them in larger bulk and at what spacing next year.

after planting they go under quickhoops,  basically just pvc electrical conduit and floating row cover.  for more information on installing quick hoops you can see last years how to post here.

in addition to the garlic bulbils, we also planted our more normal garlic from cloves.

1200 row feet, now safely under straw for the winter, to be harvested next year.

garlic planting

we actually got the garlic in a couple of weeks ago right before we went on vacation, but i didn’t want to post until after we were able to put the mulch on it, and it took us a little while to get mulch cause we wanted to purchase it from our friend jeff who is started a new company – detroit farm and garden, we wanted to support this venture.

for whatever reason garlic is often seen as a difficult crop to grow, and yet it’s really pretty easy.  it doesn’t take up that much space, a few heads can be tucked in just about anywhere, my mother into her flower beds, and it’s hugely rewarding, homegrown garlic is worlds away from the stuff you find in the grocery store.

one of the things i like best about planting garlic is that it takes place in the fall, and it’s one less thing to plant come next year.  another aspect of garlic planting is that it takes place when i am at my most tired and vulnerable, and the only thing i can think of is some nice winter day where its too cold to do anything outdoors and i just sit and drink tea and get caught up on reading.  it’s richly symbolic to plant the garlic, knowing that no matter how tired i am that i will put this garlic in the ground now and reap it’s rewards in another nine months, and i’m game for one more year of growing.

the first step is to prep beds, and since the garlic is going to be in the ground for nice months i just assume give them a little extra love.  ma has been a bit obsessed with getting compost and we gave them plenty and then a little alfalfa meal too, we want plenty of size, and we don’t want them to be lacking nitrogen.

next is to start breaking the garlic heads open and separating the cloves.  this is the job for who ever is feeling tired in the crew.  they can just sit on a straw bale and break open garlic cloves.  ma and i did it together, cause that’s how we roll.  be sure to leave the garlic paper on as best you can to protect them.

then lay everything out and start planting.  at this point i feel fine with eyeballing it, but with volunteers i always use strings and measuring sticks.  since we had so much compost and additional fertilizer we figured that we were ok with planting three rows in our 30 inch bed, each clove about five inches apart.  that might be a little tight, but we will know next year.

we made holes, drop them in, snug them down about an inch below the surface, cover them, and tamp them.  make sure you put them so the blunt end is down and the pointy end up.

last is the addition of a good amount of mulch to keep them weed free, and protected from cold weather.  we always use straw, but i think you would be fine some shredded leaves.

then its pretty much just a waiting game until next spring.

garlic fest

while we hardly even promoted it, i’d have to say garlic fest was a pretty great success.  preparing for it was a big task, we started on tuesday to have everything ready for the event.  you could argue that we started a week in advance because we extracted last weekend to ensure that we would have honey for sale.

ma focused mostly on art and visual merchandising, and i mostly on food, but there was a good amount of cross coverage as well.


garlic roasting


we roasted a garlic for spreading on bread and crackers, and adding to other recipes.  i ended up making a white bean dip with roasted garlic, sun-dried tomato, and kalamata olives.   we also made chevre with garlic honey and pickled lemons, and our friend blair was kind enough to make paw paw ice cream from paw paws we had collected, and roasted garlic and honey ice cream made with goat’s milk from catherine ferguson academy and garlic and honey from little house farms.


the spread


so the food  – and drink, we had 8 varieties of home-made mead available to sample, were certainly nice, but the main star of the event was the garlic.  and specify the garlic tasting table.


the garlic table


we laid out the 11 varieties of garlic and provided bread to spread the garlic on, and examples of what the heads looked like.  one went missing by the end of the night.  i started grating these garlics on wedensday night, just thinking it would be nice to get ahead, not realizing how long grating all that garlic would be with a dull micro plane (if anyone is looking to get me a gift a new micro plane would be great).  it ended up taking hours, and ma gave no sympathy as she had recommended that i just use the blender and thought my concerns about damaging the subtle favor compounds though exposure to heat were bullshit.  after i complained for a couple of hours about how much the garlic oil was burning my fingers she finally agreed to peel some of the garlic.

also available our honey and some of ma’s art


honey and art


in the end we sold some honey and art, got some donations, hung out with some of our favorite people, and had a great time.  figuring out which garlic was the real winner was tough, everyone seemed to like a different variety, but there were a few clear losers.




metechi was one that almost everyone seemed to like, good flavor, heat and balance.  we will certainly be planting it and several other garlic varieties in the coming weeks as well as prepping new beds for next year.  we made enough in donations to get some tools we need and some compost as well.