Why we planted 180 cloves of garlic, hoping for 180 bulbs.

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We both love to eat and cook with garlic. Our fascination with growing garlic started last year. We were on a quest to figure out how to grow, dry and store enough garlic for the two of us to eat for a year.  We prefer to eat organic garlic and organic garlic purchased in the grocery store is expensive. Besides, homegrown is always the best, right? Organic seed garlic is also expensive, but this was the quality we wanted to eat and grow. It’s extremely difficult to become a certified organic garlic farmer. Since we are edible-landscaping-backyard-enthusiasts and have spent endless hours cultivating our soil, and we sure hope it’s safe and full of nutrients. We tell ourselves it’s probably the next best thing to “Certified Organic.” Today, our garlic is happily dancing all over our yard. We dedicated 3 of our raised beds to garlic growing this year and the rest are gracing us with their beauty throughout other garden spots.

Last year we didn’t plant near enough garlic to feed our appetite, desire and taste buds for an entire year. We also lost several heads that were drying in the garage, due to high heat temperatures. The rest of the garlic did well placed in baskets and stored in a closet. Unfortunately we went through last year’s crop by December. We also lost track of the different varieties we planted, because the names eventually wore off our signs through the winter weather (you have to plant garlic in October to harvest in July/Aug).

This year our growing quest continues and includes determining which garlic variety we like best. Our love for planting and growing garlic with the intent to eat a lot of it, has been a trial and error learning experience for us. This year we set out to have a better planting, mapping and labeling system.

Garlic varieties are either hardneck or a softneck. Hardneck garlic cannot be braided and they form wonderful garlic scapes. The curly scapes are the flower stalks of the plant and they emerge about a month after the leaves are up. They need to be cut off to allow the energy of the plant to go into the garlic bulb instead of the flower. These scapes are edible and delicious. Hardneck varieties tend to have bigger blubs. Softneck on the other hand have smaller bulbs. Softnecks can be braided and hung up to dry. It’s often the garlic you see at Farmer’s markets. It is easy to grow, tolerates more climates and is typically milder. Softneck garlic is said to last longer when stored. This year we planted 41 Uzbek Porcelain (Hardneck). According to Field of Goods Farm in Boise, Idaho, “Uzbek Porcelain is brand new to the United States!  It is by far, the most reliable in the garden and easiest to cook with.  As porcelain garlic it is very hardy and robust.  It has satiny white bulb wrappers and large, symmetrical cloves that are easy to peel. It has a milder but flavorful taste.  Uzbek Porcelain was the favorite garlic eaten raw in my taste test.  It would go well in Italian food and held its flavor sautéed.  Be one of the first to grow this wonderful garlic!”  For more information you can go to http://www.fieldgoodsfarm.com/gourmet-garlic.html . We also planted 28 Spanish Rojas (Hardneck), 50 Early Red Italian (Softneck), 44 Inchelium Red (Softneck) and 17 Music (Hardneck) Garlic.

We are excited for our harvest and to write about what we enjoy when we taste and compare each variety. So far, we have a 97% germination rate. We will also be sharing some of our favorite recipes and informing you of the incredible antibacterial and health benefits of garlic. We currently only eat garlic raw in our salads, but once we harvest our garlic in July/Aug we will certainly report on which variety we feel is best to munch on straight out of its jacket. We are very excited to enjoy our 180 bulbs of garlic, share what we learn, cook many incredible garlic dishes and share them with our friends and family. We are passionate about growing our food and eating well.

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