Archive for October, 2011

Allium Sativum for Fun

“There is no such thing as a little garlic.” – Arthur Baer

Darn Right!

I’ve been researching garlic all week. I had some vague idea that garlic could be divided into hard and softnecked types but I’d never gotten further than that. In my effort to positively identify the two varieties we’ve selected to grow, I’ve become slightly more confused, but I have uncovered a bit of fun vocabulary that I plan to use below. I will helpfully present them in italics.

Hardnecked varieties, also called ophioscorodons (ophios for short), tend to do better in cooler, northern climates. We’ve chosen two hardneck varieties for this reason. Ophios have a stiff stem and send up a green shoot in the spring called a scape. There are five subcategories of ophios: rocambole, purple stripe, marbled purple stripe, glazed purple stripe, and porcelain.

10lbs of our seed stock are a cultivar of rocambole garlic called Italian Purple. These tend to be very, very hot. Cory included a head in a roast chicken recipe and a few of the cloves didn’t cook thoroughly. I bit into one and promptly began to cry. They were a pain to separate, but contained an efficient 7 to 9 cloves per head.

Porcelains have a thick white wrapper and strong flavor. There are about 15 specific cultivars of porcelain garlic, one of which is German X-tra Hardy, our choice #2. It has absolutely huge (that’s not a vocab word, just emphasis) cloves, but only about 4 or 5 per head. Unfortunately from a business perspective, this means that more seed garlic will be required to get the desired yield. It was, however, much easier to separate than the Italian.

Italian on the Left, German in the Right

Softneck varieties, or sativums, have a flexible stem and grow well in warmer climates. They include artichoke and silverskin varities. The soft, pliable stems of silverskin garlic make them the routine choice for garlic braids and wreaths. Artichoke garlic is the most common supermarket variety and are what most people think of when they think of garlic. Unfortunately my life will never be quite that simple again.

Love and Garlic

“The only advice I can give to aspiring writers is don’t do it unless you’re willing to give your whole life to it. Red wine and garlic also helps. “
― Jim Harrison
I’m slightly surprised to learn that Cory and I are to become garlic farmers. I should have suspected something, when earlier in the week he casually asked if I knew where he could get 30 pounds of seed garlic. I laughed and asked if he planned on going into business. He does.
Long story (a little) shorter, after researching, emailing, calling and a good deal of finagling, I found myself setting out this cold, rainy morning in pursuit of a 20 lb garlic lead in Wheelock, Vermont. I’ve had dealings in Wheelock before. Last Spring I spent 3 hours interviewing for a job at a vermicomposting farm in Wheelock, only to be told the planets (namely Mercury) were not in the proper alignment to make any hiring decisions. I ignored emails received after Mercury began behaving.
Matt, the garlic grower in Wheelock, seemed slightly more Earth-bound then The Worm Lady when I spoke to him on the phone. After telling him all about my trusty GPS unit, he gave me his address and then some basic directions in the event that my GPS led me astray. I’m ashamed to say that, as I was hiding in a restroom at the time of the phone call, I completely ignored everything he said after his address.
As you may have guessed my GPS indeed led me astray. After about a quarter of a mile bouncing and splashing down a road that was clearly not a road, I doubled back and slowed to ask directions at the only house in the immediate vicinity. It looked like a series of ancient sheds had been zip-tied together in various configurations with a small attempt made at resembling a house. The lawn was littered with vehicles of every imaginable make and model and I think I may have seen a school bus. As I sat peering up at the dwelling a light flashed on in a downstairs window. I shrieked and sped away.
I’m almost sorry to say that when I eventually found him, Matt the garlic grower was a perfectly nice and seemingly normal individual. I bought my 20 lbs, thanked him and headed home. 
We spent a few hours today separating the cloves from the heads, a job I found rather difficult, but Cory’s (and I say this with love) meaty hands made quick work of. The smell is now so strong in the apartment I sometimes have to have a lie down. Cory thinks I might be Undead, but that’s Ok because tomorrow when he’s planting a couple thousand cloves of garlic, I’ll be warm and cozy at Ebenezer’s Bookshop in Johnson, Vermont. Muhahahahahah!!!!!