It’s always a sad day when the last of the year’s garlic comes into the kitchen.
We cook dinner almost every night at our house – and I mean cook, from scratch, fresh ingredients. French, Italian, home-grown American, everything from simple grilling to “The Full Julia,” on occasion. John and I both love it, and it’s a great creative outlet.
Sauces, salad dressings, marinades, rice and potatoes from different cultures all seem to have one ingredient in common – garlic. We go through lots of it in a year. So, it was only natural that I try to grow as much of our supply as possible. It doesn’t quite see us through from one harvest to the next, but we get a little closer every year.
Garlic is an easy-going plant. Stick a clove in the ground in the fall, dig up a whole head the next summer. I even grew it back in Oklahoma, on a much smaller scale.
The first thing the pros will tell you is not to use garlic from the supermarket. I’ve never found this to be a problem, they seem to sprout just as reliably as purchased seed garlic. For the original planting here, I bought heads from a local farmer, separated the heads into individual cloves, and stuck them in the dirt. The next year, I was rewarded with 25 (or so) heads.
John was ecstatic – the flavor was sharp and spicy, the cloves much juicier than anything he’d ever bought. He was also deeply disappointed when I told him he could only have a few to cook with that year, as most of it would have to go back in the ground for the next year’s crop. To make matters worse, I needed the very biggest cloves to replant, leaving the small ones for the kitchen.
Four years later, he’s glad I insisted. By replanting the biggest and best every year in increasing numbers, I now have a garlic that is acclimated to my specific conditions and gives me the fat, pungent cloves I want in nearly every head. Last year’s take was 45 heads, this year will be more than 50.
Still, when I brought up the last few heads from the basement last Saturday, it was a little sad. I’ll harvest this years’ in about a month, then let it cure. It should be ready for the kitchen by mid-September. Until then, it will have to be supermarket garlic.