Garlic’s here. Grown for about 270 days, cured for another 25, with just 70 days left until planting, the eating’s just one part of a full annual cycle.
It always calls forth memories of the garlic planted last year that transformed itself from the soil chrysalis into bulbs of huge cloves, packed altogether efficiently around that hard neck. And it brings forth the hope of the garlic that will be planted this year, too, again tucked into the cold soil on a late October or early November day, with leaves spread over it pass by pass.
For those I haven’t been able to hold captive with an explanation of how garlic grows, we actually save about a third or so of the harvest every year in order to plant them out in the waning Autumn days. To plant, we “crack” the garlic into each individual cloves–you’ve done this in your kitchen for recipes that call for five or six cloves of garlic. Now, imagine an ingredient list for 2023 farmshares: in many ways, the first to be added is the 20,000 cloves of garlic we’re hoping to plant. Cracking garlic takes a full day, and then some, and is a time for us all to come together at the end of a tiring season and just talk for a bit while we slam the hard necks into wooden posts or wiggle our thumbs down the middle of the head.
Then, of course, comes Agustin’s favorite activity: the winnowing. Garlic paper, while totally innocuous to be in with the planting stock, gets blown out with a fan, so that it doesn’t get too in the way of our hands as we’re throwin’ down in the field.
And we mulch heavily with leaf litter, too, a blanket that moderates soil temperatures and prevents the most common cause of garlic not emerging, frost heave, in which the soil expands and contracts with the volatile temperatures of fall and winter and then freezes out completely.
Come spring, there’s some fertilization and some hand weeding, if need be. And there are scapes. Good golly, are there scapes! But garlic is a quiet crop of sorts, always humming in the background and requiring only a few days of fast paced work. Hardy, quiet, stoic. Traits maybe worth emulating, if I had to choose a few.
And then, Christmas in July, a harbinger for the shortening days and a reminder of autumns past and that an autumn is coming: garlic harvest day! It’s one of my favorite days on the farm of the whole year. And this year, it was even more so: even planting less than we’d have liked to last fall, this might be the best garlic I’ve seen at the farm.
So, enjoy. Unwrap those wrappers. Maybe it feels a little like Christmas in August. And if you want, sometime around Halloween, crack what ya got, make a little hole in your garden, and drop a clove in. Make sure the circle remains, as the old hymn goes, unbroken. And, finally, to complete the circle, make sure to come back again the next year, remembering and looking forward, all at once.