We are into late October now and the garden season is changing. Frost and freezing weather forced us to harvest all remaining summer produce, but many other things are in season.
Garlic and perennial onions are now in the ground, persimmons and black walnuts are plentiful.
Our attention is turning to planning for winter and beyond. One thing we are working on how we will share what we have learned about starting our business. If you are interested in beginning your own, let us know. More information will be coming over the next few weeks, so stay tuned.
Spring Garlic is similar to green onions in appearance, but with a mild garlic flavor. As a bonus, they are prolific growers, so you can have these year after year.
I’m always looking for a new food to try in the kitchen. It’s even better when I can experiement with a locally grown ingredient that is inexpensive and abundant.
Enter Spring Garlic
First what is it?
Some refer to this as wild garlic, although we grow a row on purpose. It comes back every year and in fact multiplies if we don’t keep it under control. This garlic does not produce large bulbs like you will find on cultivated garlic, but it is still quite delicious. There are several parts of this plant I use at different times of the year.
Parts to use
Spring garlic does not produce large root bulbs, so don’t expect to use this for cloves of garlic. Instead, in the early spring, it is used like green onions, except with the taste of garlic. Later, as it prepares to flower, the end of the flower stalk can be snapped off and cooked. These are referred to as scapes. (This post gives more information about using those.)
After a week or so of growth beyond the scape stage, you can harvest bulbils. These occur just before the bud begins to break open into a flower and provide another tasty option. Pick the flower bud, peel back the thin covering and separate the tiny bulbs. These give a delicious pop of garlic flavor in any dish.
Early stalk use
The rest of this post will describe how to use the early part that looks like a green onion.
Harvest when the bottom is just beginning to swell and the green shoots are about one to two feet tall. While you are harvesting for the table, you are also thinning out the crop to allow the remaining plants to grow and thrive. Trim the root ends and peel back the outer layer of more fibrous covering. Wash thoroughly to remove any remaining dirt particles.
Slice thinly just up to where the stalk begins to turn green. Send the remainder to the compost pile.
Use as you would in place of garlic. Beware, this will smell very strong but the flavor is quite light.
For an entirely garlic themed meal, I used thinly sliced pieces in a lemon and olive oil sauce for pasta. Then, I minced the remaining pieces, mixed with butter and topped italian seasoned scones. Pair with a crisp green salad. Delicious.
Walk into any decent Italian restaurant and take a deep breath. That warm spicy aroma tingling your nose is quite likely garlic. The incomparable deep flavor makes Italian dishes renowned, but also enhances any number of other recipes.
You can bring this culinary delight into your own kitchen through bulbs of garlic purchased at a box store, often imported from China, but why do that when garlic is so easy to grow?
If you are interested in growing your own garlic, now is the time to order. It is somewhat counter-intuitive, but garlic is one of those plants designed to spend winter nestled in the cold earth.
How to Choose Garlic
There are two basic types of garlic and a number of varieties within those types. Like any other plant, the specific varieties have different advantages in terms of flavor, storage, etc.
Hard Neck Garlic
These bulbs of garlic are different from the kind you normally find available in the store. The bulb forms a hard center stem that grows up through the bulb to support the leaves. When you open the bulb, there are typically 6 or 8 cloves of garlic around this center stem. The cloves are full and large. Varieties include Music, Bogatyr, and German Red.
Soft Neck Garlic
This garlic does not form the hard center stem. Softer leaves shoot out of the middle and many cloves form around this center. The outer cloves are reasonably sized with smaller ones near the center. Even the outer cloves do not attain the size of the hard neck types mentioned above. Varieties include Inchelium Red and Burgundy.
Soft neck garlic can be stored in braids by leaving the stems attached and braiding decoratively to hang.
After you receive your garlic bulbs, either through a mail order supplier or somewhere local, do not remove the papery outer cover. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place until ready to plant, then peel off the outer covering and separate the cloves, leaving each clove cloaked in its paper cover.
Choose a sunny location that is well drained with rich soil.You will need 6-8 inches of space per plant. Push each clove into the soil approximately 2 inches deep with the pointed end up. Cover with soil and mulch.
In Central Illinois, mid-October is a typical planting time, with harvest the following June.
If you have questions about planting garlic or any of the other crops grown at Five Feline Farm, you can contact us through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) or email. In the meantime, be sure to check out our online Mercantile for other available products.