Posted on February 6, 2012
Helllooo February! What a stretch of great weather we’ve had! If the groundhog saw his shadow, it was only because he wasn’t facing the sun! You’d think he’d learn by now.
I admit, I am not sorry to kiss 2011 goodbye and begin anew, and I’m also not sorry to say goodbye to January. Granted, the winter garden is a beautiful place – but sunny days that are too cold to be outside for any length of time are pure torture. The winter can get long and dreary when we sit inside and know that beneath that snow, the weeds still grow. (We know this is true, because when that snow melts, there they are, bigger than ever.)
In February, though, we start to notice the daylight lasting just a wee bit longer….hope is on the horizon with the rising sun.
But February is a weird month – it’s that ‘tween month – not really winter, not really spring. Kind of the prelude season. We don’t dare do much in the garden for fear of smashing delicate soil structure and destroying zillions of microbes in a single step. Some, not mentioning names, of course, might use that as an excuse to sit back in their easy chairs by the fire, maybe with something fermented, and delve into catalogs that promise color, warmth, and bounty at their fingertips. (Ya gotta love that woman sporting her fancy melons.) And we can talk about climate change and global warming and extremes in weather, but seriously, do I believe I’ll be able to grow luffas and bananas?
Umm – well yes, I DO believe – as much as I believe in the Good Garden Fairy – and the ability of science to come up with marvelous things we would never have believed possible. (You have to understand, I’m married to a scientist, and in my past life, I worked in a laboratory, so I have come to understand that it’s all a matter of levels of uncertainty – or conversely, certainty – and obviously, there is nothing certain in this world except death and taxes – but lest I digress….)
Oh sure, we can take the opportunity to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what we’d do differently if we could take back all those stupid things we said in our ‘tween years – but learning from our mistakes is for progressives and grown ups.
No, during garden-planning season, we all quite willingly skip into our very own fantasy world, and it’s not a bad thing. Great things come from great visions, after all, and even if they don’t end up being true to the dream, they can still, in their own way, be quite extraordinary. It has to start with a seed of an idea, though, and the desire to make it grow, right? So – feel no guilt – sit where you are, fantasize away, and do your part to save the microbes!
In February, though, anything and everything can and will happen, so you have to be prepared. Mentally, if nothing else. I mean, we have days when we think it must be April. We watch the birds pairing up and the buds start to swell on the trees, and we know that spring is maybe tomorrow, if not already. Other days, we feel we’ve regressed to November. Is there any question why we are dazed and confused?
When the days are nice, we get out and finish pruning (ahm! Isn’t that what we were supposed to be doing?) and maybe we can even take advantage of a sale at our local nurseries and plant a tree or two while they are still sleeping. (Wake up in a warm place … now There’s a fantasy!)
The problem with February is that on nice days (it’s all relative, sure, but we’ve been hitting 50 here, and it feels pretty darn good!), we feel we should be getting the garden ready, even though the soil is obviously too wet – and on lousy days (when the wind is blowing 50), we are thinking surely winter should be over by now and we really should be out there getting the garden ready, even though the soil is obviously too wet. Did I say that already? But that’s how February is. Repetitive. And we are tired of this stuff and need out. Cabin fever closes in big time. People in Cordova, Alaska, know what I’m talking about. And yes, I confess, I am spending way too much time on TravelZoo.
For those of us in Washington, though, the land where the weeds never sleep, February is the month of error. We are tempted to start our annual plants, but know we shouldn’t dare, but do anyway. We can’t help it. Primroses arrive in the grocery stores – and they are blooming profusely in sunny yellows and oranges. So we go home, full of hope and promise, and try planting a little something in makeshift milk-jug greenhouses; in the open garden, we try planting another little something – we plant deeply and mulch thickly, figuring they’ll eventually make it to the sunlight; we plant, watch our seedlings rot in the wet months that are sure to come, and replant and maybe even replant again; we plant, cover with mini hoop-houses of plastic, which get ripped in the wind, and which we strap down with Duct Tape, and then later try to crawl into and water even though it’s pouring down rain outside; and in a tender Valentine’s Day moment, we cut out pictures of hearts and flowers and paste them on cards and give them to our grandmothers. Ok, maybe I can’t do that anymore, but if I could, I would.
Well, folks, when all else fails, I say Eat More Kale. I know, I know, it might sound counterintuitive to some, and it hardly seems a solution for those winter-time blues or anything else I’ve been talking about, but believe me, it will do you wonders – as will (it goes without saying) my all-time remedy for just about everything: garlic.
I am happy to present to you here today a recipe from one of my readers, and of whom I have become a real fan. Walt has not only passed on this incredibly good (and simple!) recipe that combines these two miracle cures, but also sent me plans on how to build a beehive – which I will share with you in blog posts to come. For now:
Death by Garlic (Revived by Kale)
By: Walt Wielbicki (Garlic Breath)
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Ready In: 20 Minutes
“10 minced cloves of garlic lightly browned in olive oil and tossed with parsley, kale, red pepper flakes, hot penne pasta, and freshly grated Romano cheese makes a heady and flavorful dish.”
1/2 cup olive oil
10 cloves Polish hard neck garlic, minced
1 bunch Nash’s Kale torn from the thick stems in bite size pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 pound dry penne pasta
1/3 cup grated Romano cheese
- Cook pasta according to directions on package
- In a pan, brown the Polish garlic in oil for 2 Minuets then add the Nash kale and stir for 5 more minuets until the kale is wilted. Add salt, pepper and parsley and remove from heat.
- Toss penne pasta with garlic mixture and add Romano cheese and serve!
Note: Add sliced Polish kielbasa at the same time you brown garlic for a special treat.
My variations: We used gluten-free penne pasta made with rice flour. I’ve been really missing pasta lately, and these were great. We had plenty of kale, and yes, even parsley from our garden. As for garlic, we used German Extra Hardy (a porcelain type with a long shelf life) instead of Polish hardneck garlic. The Polish I have is a softneck artichoke type, which is not quite as flavorful as the German. I also threw in a can of tuna (along with the water it comes in). Polish kielbasa would, indeed, be good. Meatless is also very good.
! ~ * ~ !
One Final Word (or two): Don’t despair.
After February, comes March – and in March, things start to get a little crazy – so if there is something you can do now (sharpen your tools, get your trellises ready, yes, finish pruning, design your water systems and future garden beds, and yes, order seeds!) – do it!
And yes, I might try starting a little spinach. And maybe a few onions. Maybe even more kale….
Links to some cool gardening ideas for February:
Posted on January 24, 2012
I had one of those “what can I possibly make for dinner” moments the other night, which usually results in a last-minute scramble of some sort. There was a head of cauliflower that needed to be eaten, some bone broth, and a couple of chicken breasts in the freezer – a good start, but boring. I went out to the garden, mostly to inspect the damage, and also to see whether there was anything I could salvage.
To fill people in who don’t live in the Pacific Northwest: we’ve had three days of some of the heaviest snow we’ve seen in decades, followed by rain and freezing temps that left everything encased in ice. Yesterday, the wind hurled the rain against the windows. Branches of our old fir in the front yard flailed wildly about and I thought sure our old cherry tree was going to topple over. Little birds hunkered down beneath the feeder, while the eagles and gulls raced each other across the sky.
So – you can imagine my surprise when I found my kale plants standing defiantly strong against the onslaught of weather. “Mother Nature – bring it ON!”
My favorite amongst the kales is the Italian Lacinato. Seriously, this plant can grow to tree-like status in the veggie world. It’s amazingly beautiful, with dark green, deeply crinkled leaves, statuesque, even prehistoric – and it is, in fact, a very ancient plant. Nearby, also poking up from the melting snow, a young rosemary. It seemed like a natural fit. I picked some of both.
I love eating with the seasons and harvesting what I can from the garden, but I have to admit, I could be more efficient in the winter-gardening department. I’m not sure any plastic tunnel would have held up under the weather we’ve had, though, so I’m grateful for something that can hold its own under harsh weather.
Still, in the dead of winter (which, looking at my garden, is an appropriate expression), some might be heard to say, “Oh no. Chard and kale. Again.”
That person, however, would not be me. I love kale. My favorite way of cooking it is in a Polish soup with a rich broth, assorted root vegetables, beans, and sausage. It’s also really good simply steamed with a little garlic & fried bacon thrown in and a splash of vinegar. Or you could sauté it with a lot of garlic and then toss it with a little olive oil, parsley, and red pepper flakes into penne pasta, topped with Romano cheese, like my friend, Walt, the beekeeper, does (I’ll share his recipe soon).
But I didn’t have these things tonight, and what I ended up with was a sloshy stir-fry that was actually quite good. I was inspired by a recipe I found at the Unrefined Kitchen. I was intrigued by the idea of “cauliflower rice” – especially since we are trying to limit grains and gluten in our diet – so here is my variation:
Recipe: Kale-Cauliflower-Chicken Casserole
Chicken breasts, onions, kale, cauliflower, garlic, rosemary, bone broth or other stock, arrowroot or cornstarch, cheese (optional).
Basically, just sauté a little onion with cut-up pieces of a couple of chicken breasts. After the mixture is browned and cooked through, add a little bone broth thickened with arrowroot to make a thin gravy. In another pan, lightly steam cut-up chunks of cauliflower in bone broth or stock. Blast a couple of times with an immersion (or other) blender to make it “rice-like.” While this is going on, chop your garlic and set aside. Cut 6-8 leaves of kale in thin strips and toss it in with the chicken. Right at the end, add the chopped garlic, a little minced rosemary, and the cauliflower “rice.” Give it a stir or two. Top the servings with a little cheese (we used Asiago).
Kale: If you layer the leaves of the kale and roll them up like a cigar, it is easy to slice into narrow strips and then cross slice. Kale doesn’t have the water content of spinach, so it doesn’t reduce quite as much – and that’s why it’s helpful to add a little extra broth to the mix – how much depends on how gravy-like you like it.
Cauliflower: I admit, ours did not turn out as “rice”-like as that described in Unrefined Kitchen. Perhaps I oversteamed it a bit. The blender quickly turned it to thick mush. No matter. Still good. But it made the whole casserole more stew-like. In fact, this would be a good way to add a flavorful “sauce” to other dishes.
Arrowroot: If you haven’t used arrowroot, give it a try. Cornstarch also works, but it might be difficult to find some that is GMO-free. Arrowroot thickens at a lower temp and you can use a little less. Plus, it’s gluten-free (as opposed to thickening with flour). Like cornstarch, it needs to be mixed with a little cold liquid first.
Garlic: I used 2 small bulbs (about 1.75” diameter) (9 cloves) of German Extra Hardy. This Porcelain variety can easily get nearly twice that size. It is known for having just a few large, plump cloves per bulb, a strong garlic flavor, and a high allicin content. At this time of year, the hardneck bulbs are reaching the end of their shelf life, so they need to be eaten. The smaller bulbs seem to keep longer, so I save them for last. I don’t “mince” the garlic too small – I like to bite into a piece of it now and then. I just smash the cloves with the flat side of a meat tenderizer and then chop it coarsely (yes, you can lay the flat side of a knife on a clove and hit it with your hand – but I prefer to minimize the beatings to my hands). Letting it sit a bit (all it takes is a minute or less) before adding it to the rest of the food gives time for the allicin in the garlic to form and other chemical reactions to take place that develop flavor and increase health benefits. Allicin is destroyed by heat, so to preserve flavor, add chopped garlic to the food at the very last minute, giving it just enough time to heat up and for the flavors to distribute.
Rosemary: Strip the narrow leaves from the rosemary, chop fine, and add it at the last minute with the garlic. Again, you don’t want those volatile oils to just evaporate. I love the woodsy smell of rosemary, but it’s easy to do too much – so go lightly.
Cheese: not a necessity, but it sure adds another dimension of flavor to the overall dish. We used what we happened to have.
About Growing Kale & Dealing with Aphids:
If I were to pick a power food for Northwest gardens, I think it would have to be kale. The Lacinato does so well for me, I don’t think I’ll even bother with the other varieties next year, which were more prone to aphid infestations and tend to turn tough and bitter with age. Some people plant kale in spring and then again in fall. Me, I just keep with the spring plant. I’m too busy with the garlic in late summer, and it is hard to get new plants going during our hot, dry time when we have little rainfall, lots of wind, and when the bugs are in full force.
Like other brassicas, the kales are nutrient hogs – and they are prone to aphids – so you have to decide whether the effort and resources are worth it. To me, they are. You don’t need many plants to give you plenty of food. A larger plant (i.e., one started in spring) seems to have a little more resilience against the aphid onslaught. Ants will farm them – so if you have aphids, you probably have double trouble. Ladybugs feast on aphids, but never enough to get rid of them. My solution has been to spray the little bast**ds with a strong force water – but then, you have to wonder, where do they go and where do they attack next? I’ve also tried soap, nicotine, garlic, and oil sprays – but then, you don’t want to harm the good bugs that are trying to help in the war effort. I’ve also tried planting wormwood in the vicinity, which also seems to help. I even smash them into glue between my fingers. No one method, though, completely solves the problem. A combination of counterattacks is usually the best strategy. Plus, it’s usually not the whole crop that gets infested – only plants here and there. By growing a little extra, you can afford to sacrifice a few if you need to. If you can get the plants through the summer to after frost, Mother Nature will solve your insect problem for you. Plus, after frost is when kale comes into its prime.
~ * ~
If you’re looking for a good source for seeds, I can very highly recommend Renee’s Garden, a company that specializes in heirloom varieties of veggies, herbs, and flowers. Renee Shepherd is always on the lookout for unique and quality seeds; they are strong supporters of sustainable farming practices; and they donate seeds all over the world in a variety of outreach programs. It truly is a small company making a huge difference, and I can’t say enough good things about them! (And no – I’m not an affiliate – I’ve just had some outstanding results with their seeds. Good seed definitely matters!) Non-GMO – of course.
Are you a fan of Dr. Weil? He, too, loves kale. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins A, C, and K, the organosulphur compounds that have been linked to cancer prevention, calcium, and folic acid. You can read more about kale in Dr. Weil’s garden here.
Posted on November 9, 2011
Alternate Title: 7 Things You Can Do With Garlic Bulbils!
BULBILS. The word rolls around the tongue like a mouthful of marbles. They are the exotic blooms at the end of the scapes of hardneck garlic varieties that produce little seedlets.
Bulbils, though, are a thing of their own. They are not a true flower. And all those little seedlets inside, which can be anywhere from the size of a grain of rice to a chickpea, are not true seeds. They are actually miniature cloves, clones of the parent plant. Some bulbils might have over 100 of them; others only half a dozen. And the beauty is that each has the potential to grow into a full-size garlic bulb, although it might take a couple of years to get there. They are something you can easily stash here, there, and everywhere in the garden (after all, one can never have too much garlic!), so if you think you’ve run out of room to plant more garlic, think again. Of course, if you follow conventional wisdom to cut your scapes, you might not have the chance to appreciate how unique they are.
I have a new respect for bulbils. Last year, when I suspected mold beneath the soil, I let them grow. “If all else fails,” I thought, “at least I’ll be able to save some of my stock.” It was good thinking. The bulbils never touch soil.
So I tried a little experiment with them last year and planted them in flower pots and tubs, mainly because I thought surely they would get lost in my grassy patch I try to call a garden – which would have been true. I cannot say my experiment was a success, however. I had the tubs up against a fence at the far side of the property, not close by where I would see them, and when tragedy hit our family late last April, I pretty much up and left and forgot all about them. They never got watered, the grass grew up around them, my husband later weed-whacked the heck out of everything (“It didn’t look like anything was in there,” he said, which was true), and they pretty much shriveled up and died. Or so I thought.
Would you believe – there are some sprouts coming out of the tubs again! Amazing! They (or at least some of them) are still alive! Garlic is tougher than you’d think.
I didn’t plant them all in tubs, though. My Juan de Fuca Wonder bulbils, a Rocambole variety, produce rather large seedlets, which I stuck in neat rows at the end of one of my regular garlic beds. This proved to be much more successful. I didn’t plant them very deep (they are small, after all), nor very far apart, so 150 of them took up very little space. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much – maybe some “rounds” (i.e., without clove definition) the first year that I would replant in the fall to produce full-size bulbs the following year.
Well, talk about prolific! These bulbils were the biggest surprise of my entire garlic harvest! I wish I had spaced them further apart. Many of them were over 2” in diameter – as large as many of the bulbs of my main crop of Juan de Fuca Wonders. They even formed scapes and cloves of their very own. I was so proud of them!
Seedlets that start out as rice-grain size will take an extra season or two to get up there – but I have to say, I am impressed with the Juan de Fuca Wonder’s ability to jump right up with the best of them.
The nice thing about planting bulbils is that not only is it the absolutely least expensive way to increase your crop, but there are so many things you can do with them.
- Plant them now in your regular beds; thin them like baby onions; harvest in the spring like scallions. It’s that time of year when most garlic bulbs are past their prime and the fresh, delicate taste of garlic is SUCH a treat!
- Do as #1 above, but give them more time in the soil, harvest them in the summer and replant in the fall for bigger bulbs the following year. Plant large ones 2-4” apart; plant smaller ones like radishes.
- Do as #2 above, but don’t replant them. Eat them. (You know you want to.)
- Plant them in flower pots outside your door where you can keep an eye on them and then do #2 or #3 or both.
- Plant them in flower pots and grow inside on a kitchen windowsill. Clip the “grass” throughout the winter & use fresh like chives.
- Plant them in the spring – not fall – and clip like chives, grow & harvest like scallions, harvest in summer and replant in fall, or harvest in summer and consume in great quantities. In other words, do any or all of the above.
- Don’t plant them. Just eat them. Pickle them. Throw them in stir-fries, sauces, dressings. Cooked or raw, it’s all good (BTW – on some, the skins might be a little fibrous and a little tedious to peel – eat them anyway – fiber is good for you).
So – How many seedlets in a bulbil? On average, here is what I have counted:
German Extra Hardy: 193 seedlets (9 grams)
Rosewood: 175 seedlets (7 grams)
Brown Tempest: 130 seedlets (6 grams)
Metechi: 112 seedlets (8 grams)
Persian Star: 100 seedlets (2.5 grams)
Russian Giant Purple Stripe: 165 seedlets (12 grams)
Siberian: 80 seedlets (10 grams)
Juan de Fuca Wonder: 9 seedlets, (7 grams)
Killarney Red: 8 seedlets (12 grams)
Ready to give scapes a try? Yes, I DO have all of the above for sale! $2.00 each.
Contact me and let me know what you’d like. (Cool gift idea, too, is it not?)
Thanks! And Happy Planting!
(P.S. Thank you for your patience while I’m still trying to figure out this shopping cart system. At this point, the easiest way to order is to either send me an email through the Contact page, or if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by!)
Posted on October 30, 2011
It’s that time again – a time of anticipation, and for some, even dread.
A time when some point their fingers at fear and laugh – a nervous laugh, to be sure, to feign delight after twilight in the transformations that take place in the heart and soul of your very own home.
Where will you be when they arrive? Panic-stricken in the pantry, searching for something dead you might throw at them to appease their hunger?
Never fear. We are offering a seasonal special on Transylvanian Garlic Braids: 7 magical bulbs wrapped together in a display of beauty and hidden strength.
Do not be afraid to celebrate – yes, even laugh through this frightful entry to the holiday season. Be prepared when, by the light of the moon, they gather at your door. In-laws, outlaws, catclaws…greet their open jaws with confidence. And garlic. Transylvanian garlic.
Guaranteed to make them swoon.
It’s for your own protection.
Just $17.50, while supplies last.
Don’t delay. Contact me today.
Vampires need not apply.
More About Transylvanian Garlic:
Transylvanian is a large, rather lumpy-looking, interesting bulb with an interesting history. It is a softneck artichoke variety, which means the flexible stem can be braided, and the cloves overlap kind of like the leaves in an artichoke. In general, artichoke varieties have a lot of cloves of varying sizes (as opposed to porcelain types that might have only 4 plump cloves), which can be handy when all you need is a little garlic, depending on what you’re cooking. The skins are a little tighter around the clove than those of hardneck varieties, making them a little harder to peel (no big deal if you smash them), but on the other hand, less oxygen gets in, so they last a lot longer – months longer, in fact, which is great if you’re trying to plant different varieties to make sure you never run out.
If you want to plant a few cloves, now is the time. Expect 10-16 cloves per bulb. Plant the biggest ones to get the biggest bulbs in return. Being as it comes from the Transylvanian Mountains of Romania (found in a Romanian farmer’s market in the mid-1990s), it is a variety that can handle cold winters. The bulbs are ready to harvest relatively early.
The Transylvanian is a very flavorful garlic – not too hot – not too mild. It has an almost sweet nutty taste with roasting; cooking, of course, will mellow any garlic.
Raw, yes, it has a little bite – definitely something you can sink your teeth into.
Posted on October 27, 2011
After rescuing my website yesterday after near heart failure that I had wiped out everything, I had to get outside (note to website folks: the theme Atahualpa is a fantastic theme – and I love it – but it does not mesh well with WP e-Commerce, which apparently has issues under certain conditions). The computer snafu took up valuable time on a beautiful day. There is a sense of urgency in the air at this time of year. Multicolored leaves are falling; rainclouds are always on the forecast; sunny for now, but not warm – it is definitely time to get that garlic in the ground. More than once I have planted in the pouring rain – something I’d like to work around, if possible. I have spent a lot of time building beds in preparation for this day. We are just so incredibly fortunate here in the Pacific Northwest. When the weather is lousy, it is truly lousy – but we live for these gorgeous fall days.
The great thing about planting garlic is that it can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. It can be a few cloves stashed strategically here and there, long rows within beds that span the horizon, or something that twists and turns resembling some kind of labyrinth. I like to make my life complicated, so this year, I chose the latter. Rectangles are just so – well, square. Not that squares don’t have their place; they are just disappearing in my garden. People who like efficiency go with rectangles. I admire those people. I just happen to be more of a freestylin’ sort of person, which is the beauty of a garden – you make it however you want it to be – as it grows and evolves, it becomes an extension of yourself – and THAT is why, as I was planting 10 varieties and over 500 cloves of hardnecks yesterday, I couldn’t help but scratch my head and wonder about the subconscious forces in my decision to go with something that ended up looking a lot like, well, maybe a whirligig, a funny word that somehow exemplifies my life.
Actually, I am still following the Master Plan. Yes, I do have one. Every year, I rotate my garlic crop around 6 squares (yes! Squares!) architecturally laid out in two rows of three (so linear – so logical – and Dad, I want you to know, contrary to popular belief, I DO maintain a level of structure in my life!).
So, this year, it was time to plant in the far northwest plot, where I had earlier this year planted several shrubs, most notably, the nitrogen fixers, Autumn Olive and Goumi Berries, both Eleagnus species, and a Nanking cherry. My plan was to plant garlic around these shrubs, which would provide nitrogen and shelter from the wind, and the garlic, in grateful return, a certain level of pest protection – hopefully a mutual beneficial relationship. I would also build beds around the shrub circles with pathways between – kind of a series of connected keyhole gardens. The vision was beautiful. The beginning reality was something like this:
The beauty of the idea, however, is not only aesthetic, despite what you see in the picture at left. It is efficient. MORE efficient, in fact, than rectangles. Ideally, anyway.
See, in a traditional garden with paths between single rows, paths can take up half the garden space or more. If the garden is in beds, that wasted space is reduced, but still might take up a third of the overall space. However, if you plant your garden in a large circle with a short path that cuts into the center to give access, i.e., a “keyhole” or a “U”, you reduce the path space even further, leaving more room for garden. Another idea is the “Mandala Garden,” which is like a keyhole garden inside a series of keyhole gardens that wrap around its perimeter. Sounds complicated, but Toby Hemenway makes it sound so simple in Gaia’s Garden, A Guide to Homescale Permaculture (Second Edition).
I love that idea, but it is not something I achieved, because I was working around a series of 7 shrubs in a 25-ft square area, which did not allow room for a 3-ft wide perimeter planting space.
Did I mention there’s a lot of math involved in gardening? The geometry in this is just mind-boggling. If you haven’t downloaded my Excel Garlic Planting Guide, please feel free to do so. It works great with rectangles, but you can make it work with circles, too. All you have to do is remember that the perimeter of a circle is pi (3.14) times the diameter. Think of the perimeter as the line along which you plant. Of course, you don’t plant on the outside edge of the circle – you give the plants some edge space – so the diameter is shorter, accordingly. If you are planting more than one row in the circle, then that would be an inner perimeter – so your spacing would be figured on a series of perimeter lines wrapping around the circle.
Let’s just say figuring out how much garlic I could plant in my garden space this year and which varieties I could fit where was a fun challenge.
All math aside, though, this year’s garlic patch is going to be the most beautiful ever.
I love the way it curves and meanders; it gives more bulbs a warm southern exposure in the process. I can’t wait to see the little shoots emerging from the soil and what it might look like as they grow up around the shrubs, which I expect will also take off this next year, too. Stay tuned!
Posted on October 24, 2011
If you’ve checked out my “Garlic Variety” page lately, you might think “there are no products.”
ACTUALLY – WE HAVE LOTS OF GARLIC – REALLY GREAT GARLIC, in fact – even though many in our community had crop failures.
This is a prime example of the con side of doing your own website when you don’t know what the heck you’re doing!
So in trying to set up this REALLY COOL storefront that would make it so much easier for people to see what’s available and order garlic, I apparently wiped out everything that I had up there – like all those pictures and descriptions and everything. Groaaaannn.
Not only that, it appears every single link connects to the “No Products” page.
AND of course, this hits me at a time when I am smack in the middle of planting.
The good news is, it looks like I was able to get back my original site – but I’m going to try something again, so if you see some blips in the road, please hang in there with me!
We have run out of some of the rarer varieties, but we still have lots of Siberian, German Extra Hardy, Polish White, Inchelium Red, and quite a few others.
So – if you’re looking for garlic, and nothing is showing up on the site, shoot me an email – offer me sympathy if nothing else! Thanks! (I could use some!)
I hesitate to provide a link. Without the spaces, the email address is blythe @ barbolian.com.
Posted on October 20, 2011
Garlic planting time!
Question for you – how much are you planting this year? Do you know? (Do you even care?)
Silly question. OF COURSE WE CARE! We are passionate about garlic.
But what I am referring to are the many ways of planning the garlic garden. For example, does your garlic garden plan look like THIS???
I should hope not. I mean, who in their right mind would make a garden plan like THAT! Ahm.
Yeah – so that’s why I made a handy-dandy garlic planner in Excel – plug in the numbers, and PRESTO – instant planting plan for you. Check out different scenarios to see what works best in your situation – all in a flash. No senseless scribbles and cross-outs. And what’s more, I am willing to SHARE this amazing tool with all my fans out there who are willing to sign up on a mailing list, which entitles you to other cool stuff down the road. (Confession here: this is my first time trying to make files available for download through cyberspace, so I hope it works.)
For those of you who really don’t have time for all my hype, just
CLICK HERE to grab the Barbolian Fields Garlic Planting Planner right now.
I’m cool with that. Time is of the essence. Many people already have their garlic in the ground. Others are still trying to figure out how and where they’re going to plant it. I usually shoot for planting right around Halloween, give or take a couple of weeks either way.
Ok – for those of you patient souls out there who want to know more of the what & why of the Planner, read on.
Here’s the deal. When it comes to planting garlic, some folks just plant whatever fits in the space they have and eat the rest. That’s a good way. They worry a bit about the advice of “plant the biggest cloves” and wonder what that means, considering they’ve purchased “medium-sized” bulbs and have a bunch of little cloves that they’d just as soon stick in the ground than go through the hassle of peeling and eating. Then again, the cloves are so good, they just might eat them all unless they put some in the ground…and soon.
Others, though, like me, say, “I planted 1300 bulbs last year; this year I’m amping up to 1500.” Although that’s not really what I’m planting – I just threw those numbers out there.
I am one of those nerdy types who go through great extremes to measure each and every bulb, plot the averages on graphs, and try to figure out what works best from year to year, knowing full well that any statistician worth her/his salt would shoot holes through my analysis, based on the obvious fact that I, too, do not always plant the “biggest cloves” – whatever that means – which throws all the averages off right from the get-go.
Still, I try to analyze what works and use that analysis to determine how much to plant of what.
Then there are those who are BIG into growing garlic who go by poundage … “Yeah, I’m doing about 500 lbs this year.”
I’m not sure they worry about stats or even go through the trouble to measure anything. After awhile, you can just tell by looking at ‘em what’s “small,” “medium,” and in the “OMG- that is ONE FINE BULB!” category, and usually it’s a crew making those assessments.
But SOME people – me included – need to know EXACTLY how much garlic we’re going to plant, because we only have SO MUCH space, and quite frankly, every inch counts.
It’s just me and my shovel out there. No big tractors. No crews (although sometimes I get a little help from my friends).
And if you’re paying premium price for top-notch quality seed stock – and let’s be honest here – organic garlic seed stock ain’t cheap (we can save all the reasons why for another post) – you want to make the most of your investment.
I mean, if you’re just going to eat the stuff (in large quantities, possibly), maybe you don’t want to pay top dollar for that which becomes a fond memory of a special epicurean evening – but maybe you DO want to make the most of what might compound into a 5- to 10-fold return on your investment, depending on variety, in next year’s crop. Even if you’re not into it for the business, saving money in these economic times and ending up with a big basketful of garlic to boot (or booty, as the case may be) – is always a good thing.
We garlic growers are a group of great visionaries, what can I say.
So back to our original question: How much are you going to plant?
Planting garlic is, after all, simple math.
If you have a row xx feet long and xx feet wide, if you space your garlic 6” apart down a row and 6” apart across the row – or maybe 8” apart across and 8” down, or maybe 6” across and 8” down, or maybe crammed in tightly at 3” or 4” – and depending on the width of the bed, you have room for xx number of rows, and then you leave room for the sides of the bed, assuming it is raised a few inches to allow better drainage – which, depending on the number of rows across the bed leaves you how many “row spaces” between garlic rows (and how big are those spaces again?), and then you need to factor in the space between beds – 1.5 feet? Enough to allow a small tiller? Enough for a wheelbarrow? 2.5 feet?
Dang. For being simple backyard farmers, we sure are getting complicated here.
AH! But never fear! My Garlic Planting Planner provides a simple solution for you.
I have been making spreadsheet formulas for years – but THIS year, I really nailed it down.
All YOU have to do is plug in your measurements or other variables (be sure to follow the notes!) – and you will be able to see instantly (because this is the power of spreadsheets!) what you have room for and what not – and WHAT’S MORE – you can tweak it to see how different scenarios play out according to your specific specifications. Which is what we all have, to one degree or another.
Maybe you need a little more room on the side of the beds. Maybe you need more space between beds. Maybe you want to see how much difference in total yield it will make if you space them 5” – 6” – 7” – 8” … you get the idea.
And believe me – I get it – you could figure this out on your own, but you don’t really want to.
What it comes down to is this:
- Making the most of what you have
- Spending less time scratching your head
- Having more time to Get Down, Get Dirty, Get OUT There, and Plant!
So how much does it cost to access this handy-dandy planning tool?
Answer: I’ll let you decide. Give it a try. If you find it useful, it would be absolutely awesome if you hit the PayPal Donate button & bought me a cup of coffee. (I could really use one about now.) You could also send a check, money order, or even cold hard cash to:Blythe Barbo Barbolian Fields P.O. Box 542 Carlsborg, WA 98324 Dang, I love getting money in the mail. It really makes my day.
But it’s not always about money. Receiving heartfelt thanks is also very gratifying. Trading is always cool, too. And when it gets down to it, I just appreciate the opportunity to help people out there who are passionate, as I am, about growing (and eating) exotic varieties of garlic. I appreciate the opportunity to share whatever wisdom (or folly) I’ve gained in the process. It’s a mutual thing. We help each other.
So – don’t scroll up -
HERE’S THAT LINK again to get your very own copy of the Barbolian Fields Garlic Planting Planner.
Even if you aren’t familiar with Excel – rest assured – it’s easy – and I provide directions every step of the way.
Thank You, again, for your support, in whatever form it takes,
And best of luck to you in all your garlic-growing endeavors!
Posted on October 5, 2011
It’s garlic scramble time. That means it’s that time of year when we are all scrambling to find those unique bulbs that you simply can’t find in the stores. Is it just me, or does it seem that gourmet garlic varieties are hard to find this year? All my traditional website resources have posted “sold out” notices since August, leading me to believe either they are taking a lot of advanced orders or the weather was so rotten across the country this year, there just isn’t that much to go around – or both. Course, we all saw the mega-bucks the Chinese were making by hoarding these bulbs more precious than gold…or wait – maybe we didn’t see those mega-bucks. We’re mucking in the quagmire of a recession. Well, when all else fails, I will still have garlic, along with visions of exotic places that accompany gourmet delights. “Bogatyr,” “Persian Star,” “Asian Tempest” … mmm … inhale deeply….
Yes, we garlic epicureans (I hesitate to call us gastronomes because of the inherent implication in the word) are a savory bunch. We meet in obscure corners of the gardens and privately show each other our wares. “So, say…” a hooded stranger said to me the other day, “would you be willing to trade a little Vekak for some fire-breathing Korean Red?”
This person has hit me at a weak point. I am going through my annual debate on whether to cut back on what has become not so much an addiction, but perhaps a bit of a compulsion. Ok, Ok, so maybe I have a little problem … but on the heels of a very good year when many have suffered disappointment and outright defeat, I am soaring with the endorphins of success (are we still talking about garlic here?), and yes, admittedly tempted. Salivating with temptation, in fact. Being careful not to drool in public, even.
The urgent time is nigh: garlic planting season is upon us. We cannot afford to wait the debate outcomes. If you don’t get it now, you won’t have the option later. Gotta get it while ya can, because the good stuff is disappearing fast.
And so, once again, I am experiencing that phenomenon of what is called, “garlic creep.” That’s where you think you’re going to have just a small plot of a few varieties of garlic, but as you go through the garlic, you just can’t bear NOT to plant some of these beautiful bulbs that hold so much promise. You just can’t bear NOT to try that enticing variety you have yet had the opportunity to experience in all its richness. And so the next thing you know, you are seeking places throughout the garden to stash just a little more garlic.
Sure. There are those who are in this for the money. Growing garlic can be a successful business – and we can talk about that in another post if you like. These people will choose varieties based on size, exterior beauty, and on what will thrive in their soil and climate. They fully understand supply and demand relationships and anticipate trends. Makes sense to me. And on the social side, I have made a lot of friends through my little garlic business, perhaps at the expense of other not-so-enamored-with-garlic friends and relatives preferring to keep their distance.
But we’re not talking about business savvy, social issues, or least of all, common sense here. We are talking about blind desire – the growers who seek out those grubby little gnarly bulbs that hide an explosion behind their obscurity. Ah yes. Most of us garlic growers are a combination of the two. Our business affords us the luxury of indulging in the latter. I like to keep a few bargaining chips on the table.
“What is best?” “What kind to get?” These are my two most-oft asked questions – and I truly can’t say what is best because I am still in the process of trying them all and I have a long way to go. It is the journey, after all. I would advise, though, if you can, to get a few of each of the main varieties, within the limits of your growing conditions: Artichokes, Silverskins, Porcelains, Rocamboles, Purple Stripes (which can be divided into Standard, Glazed, or Marbled) … and then there are the Asiatics, Creoles, and Turbans, which I do not have outside my personal stash (ahm).
And if you’re not going to grow them but just eat them, well then, of course, just buy everything and have a party!
Here’s the updated status on what we still have for sale and/or trade at Barbolian Fields, along with some brief guidelines to help you in what is, I know, an agonizing decision.
Artichokes – Very large, early-maturing, long-storing garlics, with lots of cloves. Overall, they tend to have mild- to medium-heat, can be eaten raw, and add subtle flavor without being overpowering. They can be grown in warmer climates and are beautiful in braids.
Currently available Barbolian varieties: Polish White, Inchelium Red, and the famed Transylvanian.
Silverskins – These are usually the last to mature and also the longest storing. They have lots of cloves – perfect for smashing & throwing in a stew – and come in a wide range of flavors. They make gorgeous braids.
Currently available Barbolian varieties: Western Rose
Porcelains – If you like big bulbs with a few fat cloves, that grows almost everywhere, stores a long time, has outstanding flavor along with a very high allicin content, and is arguably one of the most beautiful varieties – this is your variety. “Robust” in all senses of the word pretty much describes it. I mean, really, what is there not to like about these garlics?
Currently available Barbolian varieties: German Extra Hardy, Romanian Red, Rosewood
Purple Stripes – I admit to playing favorites with the Purple Stripes. They just grow so well, have such great flavor, maybe not the largest, but their few cloves/bulb come in just the right sizes, a sweet bulb for roasting, and yes, they are eye candy – their colors are just so striking. I grow more Purple Stripes than any other variety, and among those, the Siberians have performed exceedingly well. As a hardneck, they don’t store as long as their softneck counterparts, but can easily be eaten first.
Currently available Barbolian varieties: Brown Tempest, Persian Star, Russian Giant, and Siberian.
Rocamboles – These do best in colder climates, so if you can grow them, you must. Rocamboles are not about size, beauty, or storage – in fact, they have the shortest shelf life of the garlics – they are, however, ALL about flavor, and if you like them bold, rich, and hot – oh yeah, these are for you.
Currently available Barbolian varieties: 1st-year small bulbs of the Juan de Fuca Wonders grown from bulblets in the scapes. They can be sized up for next year – or just consumed (which is what I tend to do with these in large quantities). Might have a Killarney Red & a Carpathian out there. These have gone quickly, sorry.
So there you have it. If you haven’t gotten your garlic fix – warning – supplies are dwindling fast! Contact me!
Posted on September 25, 2011
One of the great pleasures of growing garlic is when it is all harvested, cured, cleaned, weighed, measured, sorted, and gently placed in baskets on the shelf … and then you just sit in the middle of it all, inhale that wonderful fragrance, close your eyes, and imagine all the wonderful things you will do with these beauties! To be in a small room surrounded by nearly 1000 bulbs of garlic – well – it’s one of those indescribable moments you just have to experience! But so you, too, can live vicariously through me, I take great pleasure in sharing these pictures. Yes! I am willing to share! (for a price, of course) Contact me!
Posted on August 28, 2011
ATTENTION ALL GARLIC LOVERS: NOW TAKING ADVANCE ORDERS FOR GARLIC!
Our garlic harvest was a full month later than in some years, but yes – the garlic is in and hanging in the shed – AND THE GOOD NEWS IS: IT LOOKS FANTASTIC!
The bad news is: We have only limited quantities for sale this year while we rebuild our stock.
The quick list (Head to the Garlic Varieties page for full descriptions):
|Artichokes||Inchelium, Polish White, Sicilian, Transylvanian|
|Porcelains||German Extra Hardy, Romanian Red, Rosewood, Susan D.|
|Purple Stripes||Brown Tempest, Chesnok Red, Metechi, Persian Star, Russian Giant, Siberian, Vekak|
|Rocamboles||Carpathian, Juan de Fuca Wonder, Killarney Red, Western Rose|
|Scapes||Available for Porcelain, Purple Stripe, and Rocambole varieties.|
Despite limited quantities, we are very excited about this year’s crop, especially after last year’s failure.
It was a hard lesson for me. I salvaged what I could of my garlic and my pride, planted the best of what I had, did a little horse-trading on the side, and also did a lot of debating on whether I was cut out for this business.
My doubts were thrown to the compost pile when we started harvesting, only to find one beautiful bulb after another. We gently lifted them from the ground from beneath the bulb (never yanking on the stem, which can break it loose from the bulb and invite the dreaded molds and nefarious insects). (Many thanks to my niece and nephew for their help!) We laid them carefully on the ground, one by one, and later tied them in small bundles to hang and cure. I am always amazed when people roughly handle garlic. I cringe when I see people in grocery stores tossing bulbs around like tennis balls. Garlic, especially when it is first harvested, is tender and easily bruised. Treat it gently and with kindness. Give it the respect it deserves.
We are keeping our fingers crossed during the curing process, but so far, so good. I recently learned the Earth Dharma Farm in Maine did not fare so well – coastal humidity provided just-right conditions for mold, a story we know too well. Our hearts go out to them as they salvage what they can and try to rebuild, much like we did this last year.
And speaking of rebuilding: harvest time is also the time to be planning on what to put in the ground this fall for the 2012 crop, and by default, also means it’s time for that annual debate on whether to scale up, cut back, or stay the same, a debate that has delayed this announcement. (More for me means less for you. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.) It takes years (or a large cash investment) to build up a quantity of seed stock, so the decision is an important one. Once the garlic obsession takes hold, however, it’s near impossible to stop. Fair warning. There are just so many varieties to try. Over the years, I’m getting a little better at determining just what is able to survive the abuse in my particular garden plot on the planet, but I am always open to new and interesting varieties.
One option if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to size up your stock is to plant the bulblets from the scapes – if you thought to save them, that is. They are hard to find, because most people subscribe to the conventional wisdom that mandates cutting them off so the plant will put more energy into growing bigger bulbs. More about that in a future post, but suffice to say, we are offering scapes for sale this year, in addition to the regular bulbs (Asian, Porcelains, Purple Stripes, and Rocamboles, i.e., all hardneck varieties). (More about reasons NOT to cut your scapes and growing garlic from tiny bulblets coming soon.)
Future posts will also look at what worked and what didn’t. (You, too, can learn from my foibles.)
For now, though, if you are interested in purchasing, write me an email. It’s a busy time of year, but I WILL get back to you as soon as I can. We will be shipping after the bulbs have had a chance to cure (about mid-September) unless you beg for them sooner. Drop-ins at our homestead are welcome; give me a call first. I look forward to hearing from you!
One final serious note:
Those who know me and follow our blog know that the last few months have been difficult at best, dealing with family tragedies, health issues, losses, and other chaotic events, any one of which would have been enough to deal with in a year. Piled up at once, they only served to make me even more appreciative of how fortunate we are – because it’s true – no matter how bad it gets, you never have to look far to find someone worse off. Thanksgiving is today and every day, and I just want to take this opportunity to say how thankful we are for all the supportive friends who have come forward, some of whom I have never even met. Right now, I feel like a mole who has been in a dark hole for the last few months and who, in clawing his way to the surface of the earth, breaks through, squints in the blinding light, and says, “Whoaaa…it’s a big world out there!” And let me tell ya, the sunshine feels pretty good.
Thank you, friends. Life is good.