Pretty much everything I know about garlic I learned from Stanley Crawford. He has a farm in Dixon and is a fellow vendor at the Santa Fe Farmers' Market.  His book 'The Mayordomo' is a classic along with DeBueys's 'River of Traps'. However, Stan also wrote a slim treatise called 'The Garlic Testament' around 1992. 

I learned you plant garlic in the fall as soon as you have seed dry and ready. The heads are broken up and the individual cloves are nested in good soil just below the surface with the pointed tip up. The idea is that they will set down roots before the ground freezes and prevent frost heave. You always pick the biggest heads to plant. Once the green shoots emerge you can cover them with straw through the coldest months. 

There are two types of garlic, softneck and hardneck. Softnecks include the Italian types and tend to set multiple overlapping cloves. Hardneck varieties have a stiff central stem and head out. What will become the blossom is called the 'scape' and for the bulbs underground to reach full size, the scapes must be removed when the stem begins to curl. These scapes are fine eating - sauteed along with summer vegetables.

Once the leaves of the garlic begin to yellow the bulb is mature and you cut off water to the plants if possible. The leaves are yelllowing becuase the plant is now drawing the sugars and nutrients back down into the bulb. Dig the bulbs and hang them to dry. It is not necessary to wash them, The dirt will peel off with the outer skin. If you leave them in wet ground too long the outer layers are of no use protecting the cloves. 

Of course the worst thing a garlic farmer can do is leave the garlic in the ground over winter without digging and replanting. That creates a 'garlic ghetto' with dozens of tiny cloves struggling for available resources -  not a happy image or outcome! 

However, with a little care, water, and sunshine, garlic is an easy plant to grow and one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Enjoy! 







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