Welcome everyone! This is our new farm blog, where we will be posting about what it means to be a farmer! We will be talking about what we do on the farm, discussing crops in detail so you as the consumer can have a better education about the food you eat, and explain how eating locally can change your life!
So to get started on our first farm blog we will be focusing on one of our favorite crops to grow. GARLIC! While garlic is a mainstay in many types of cuisine, its also a mainstay at Sassafras Hill.
Garlic farming starts in September when we separate garlic bulbs into single cloves. The larger the clove, the larger the bulb of garlic that plant will produce; so each year we save our biggest and best garlic as seed garlic. We plantthe bulbs into a healthy, rich soil loaded with plenty of compost because the garlic plants will need all the energy they can get to endure the 10 month journey until harvest! Yes, 10 months! It takes over a year to produce that one garlic bulb that can disappear in seconds when cooking.
After we plant the garlic cloves in September, the bulbs will sit and slowly grow out of the soil about 2-3 inches until the frost comes in October, when the plant goes dormant and stores the energy needed to create a great bulb of garlic. You may ask why we plant the garlic if it just goes dormant anyway? If planted in the spring, the plants will not have undergone the cold temperature requirements to form a bulb of garlic.
After sitting dormant for 4 months, the plants begin to grow again in March. Here at Sassafras Hill Farm we grow mostly hard-neck garlic which has a hard stem and is more traditional here in the northeast, rather than a soft-neck garlic which is more commonly found in the supermarkets. The hard-neck garlic often doesn't store as long as soft-neck, however, it has a stronger and more desirable flavor! This is a trade off we are willing to make as our garlic is sure to sell out fast!
Once the garlic begins to grow it doesn't take long until the plant starts to form a flower stalk, often called a scape. These scapes are edible and delicious, and only come once a year! Here on the farm we love fresh garlic scape pesto, or grilled scapes. They are a delicious and healthy early summer treat, as the scapes are usually harvested in June.
Once the scapes are harvested, the plant sends all of its energy into making a garlic bulb! Usually by early July the garlic plants begin to turn yellow and die back. This is our sign that the garlic bulb is ready and the plants can be pulled!
Once we harvest the plants out of the ground we cut the upper leaves of the garlic, make bunches of garlic with the roots on and hang them to air dry. This curing process is crucial as if the garlic gets wet or doesn't have enough air flow the garlic will rot from the inside out. We hang our garlic for approximately 2 weeks, when its all dry we cut the dried leaves off the plant and leave a 2 inch "hard-neck" on the garlic, and begin to sell the garlic!
After 10 long months garlic is finally sold in July, and can be stored until the late winter when the garlic will begin to grow again! Garlic should always be stored outside of the refrigerator in your kitchen, hanging with plenty of air flow. Never refrigerate garlic unless it is cut and peeled; as this will shorten its storage life, so instead use the cut and peeled garlic.
By August we begin to prep our new garlic beds to be planted, and come September the process begins all over again!
All that work for a single garlic bulb! Hopefully you have learned a little bit about garlic and have found a new appreciation for all the work that goes into a single bulb!