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These days the door to my barn opens to the delicious aroma of garlic plants laid out on an old screen door I found in the barn. Every day multiple times a day I walk by them, inhaling as I go.
I’m that girl – well aren’t we all who cook – who always has a dish of garlic cloves stored away in the pantry. I love garlic almost as much as onions, the latter of which I have truth be told known to eat raw. So far raw garlic cloves have escaped my appetite, but that bunch in the barn well that’s making me wonder is there something edible I’ve been missing out on?
Rewind to last fall when I planted – OK got completely carried away with planting – a few varieties of cold-hardy hard-necked varieties of garlic. Right before at a farmers’ market in Portland and then, of course, at Common Ground Fair I lost my senses and purchased from various farmers garlic. Come mid-October and I was kneeling in the dirt enjoying the cool weather and longing for a few more weeks of gardening. Well, I wasn’t going to get a few more weeks or if memory recalls with Mother Nature’s swift kick in the pants – even a few more days … however I had that morning in the dirt and made the most of it. I planted garlic and then I planted some more.
To plant garlic, you separate the cloves – and keeping the papery husk on each individual clove – discard the unhealthy ones. Then plant each clove two to three inches down six to eight inches apart. Tom Roberts of Snakeroot Farm in Pittsfield, Maine advises to plant the end with the pointed side up and flat/root end down. He also recommends planting garlic in full sun (something I have an ample amount of behind my barn).
A week or so after planting the garlic I put down a layer of straw mulch to help insulate it (advisable considering Maine’s often harsh winters). After that I sat back, the frigid temps came, and I smiled every time I looked out the windows in the back of the barn at all that garlic under all that snow.
Once the snow melted those garlic plants were one of my first indications of summer.
I’d been told by Tom to start looking for signs to harvest in early to mid-July. Sure enough, this past Saturday the tops of the garlic plants had started to die back. He said when some of the lower leaves had turned yellow or brown, but still have five or six green leafs left higher up then it would be time to harvest them, because that means I would have five or six good solid wrappers.
Using my hands (a shovel might damage the garlic) I loosened the soil around the bulb enough to where I could see the bulb, then gently – but with enough force to do the job – pulled the green leaves (attached to the bulb and roots) out of the ground.
Less than an hour later I had my first bumper crop of garlic. I’ve already let the folks in my little Great Cluck Egg Farm CSA know and had one person offer to swap garlic for some Swiss chard. Heck yes.
The garlic heads will need to cure for a good couple of months (if it weren’t so darn humid the curing process might take a few weeks). During that time I’m sure to develop some kind of garlic cravings.
My favorite way to prepare/eat garlic is to roast it. Cut tops off of cloves, place each head in one compartment on a muffin tin, pour 2 tbsp olive oil on top of each head, add fresh cracked pepper and sea salt, cover lightly with aluminum foil, bake for 1 hour at 400°F. Spread on French bread or eat plain.
My friend Jennifer Yu’s Chimichurri pairs well with a good crusty baguette and a few slices of grilled beef.
Corrin Crone Phillips felt if I would be suggesting garlic recipes that Lebanese tourn (garlic sauce) is a must. I agree! It’s like mayo without the egg, but better. Phillips said it keeps for weeks refrigerated. Here is a recipe with some background.