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How to Order, Grow, & Harvest Organic, Magical Garlic; Plus Homegrown Recipe From One of NY’s Best Chefs

 

I’ll argue that few plants can match garlic ~ worshiped for its beauty, ease of growth, variety, its performance as a culinary chameleon, and captivating history. 

Garlic has been used as money, food, an aphrodisiac, and magic… 

Garlic gave strength and courage to athletes and warriors, protected maidens (!) and kept out blood-thirsty vampires & witches, and the black plague. Come on ~ you can’t ask more from a plant. Now is the time to order for next year. 

Here’s how we grow and harvest these aromatic bulbs.  



History

Garlic is and is one of the oldest cultivated plants.  I read that the Egyptians revered it and even placed it in their tombs.  I read that ancient Greeks had to pass a garlic breath test to enter the Cybele temple, knights in the court of King Alfonso de Castille weren’t allowed in polite court for a week after indulging, and wealthy Indian sultans often denied themselves the pungent herb because they associated it with the “commoners.” Fools. More for the regular folks. 

Garlic was believed to inflame passions: Chinese doctors prescribed garlic for men with “intimacy problems,” groom placed cloves in their buttonholes for a happy honeymoon.* 

Garlic is a native of central Asia or Southwestern Siberia. The Crusaders brought it to Europe and Mediterranean immigrants introduced the herb to the Americas. 

The hardneck varieties found their way here in 1989 after the collapse of the USSR. American botanists who had been itching to get their hands on these gems were finally allowed into the area (it had military installations and heretofore were forbidden access) but now could could get their hands on the native Alliums ~ with an armed guard. At night. *

The name garleac is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning “spear leek,” from the Allium longicuspis, Lily (Liliaceae) family and related to onions, leeks, chives, and shallots.*  And you should grow all of these tasty treats.

There is no debate about the health benefits of garlic, and its delicious taste.

Remember, your fresh garlic should be almost juicy. One of the chefs from my Homegrown cookbook noted good garlic should be like a water chestnut.  Dried out cloves that are too often found in supermarkets will not provide the same good, pungent and glorious, bright taste. 

Homegrown Garlic!

Ordering Garlic

For years, Bill has ordered ours from the Maine Potato Lady ~ we’ve sourced our garlic from her  ~ along with shallots and well, potatoes.

Some of my favorites include Music 🙂  Music

Georgian Fire, Inchelium Red, and German Red.German Red - Available! 

We receive our garlic bags around October. 

When ordering, I suggest you get a variety of garlic. They come in many colors, flavors, and sizes. Along with a mix of SoftNecks and HardNecks.   

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HardNecks produce the wonderful scapes we so enjoy in the spring.  

They are an ephemeral and irresistible recipe addition for chefs to use in the spring, and a clamored-for item at the Greenmarkets. 

HardNeck garlic is easy to peel with big cloves. SoftNeck has a high yield, smaller cloves and these are the braided garlics. 

Growing Organic Garlic 

Bill selectively removes the  cloves from the bulbs at planting time.  There is some reduction in the cloves you can ultimately use, so when ordering, count on approximately 10 percent loss. 

Garlic likes a sunny space.  We plant in the fall, after we harvest the edibles from the farmette; after the space is cleared, it’s ready for our homegrown compost to spread on the waiting farmette. 

Our Compost Cabana ~ we designed and upgraded it last year to this rustic look.

Bill then meticulously measures off the calculation for garlic, planting approximately 8 inches apart and three inches deep.  Pointy side up. 

He also carefully labels the garlics.  Like watching your kids grow, it’s fun to see the differences in the varieties and how they grow.  And harvesting is so much better when you can readily identify the bulbs. 

 

Growing and Harvesting Garlic 

The bulbs are on their own throughout the winter.  You’ll see the garlic stalks emerging in April/May. The scapes come out around the end of June/early July.

So pretty and tasty. 

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After Independence Day, it’s harvest time. You’ll know when the stems/stalks turn brown. When there are three green stems left, usually when temperatures get to around 90F. It’s great to have a signal from the garlic that pretty much tells you, “I’m ready for my next act!”

You can see how the clove looks when it’s picked

You just lay them out singly, with air/space between them; no need to clean the soil off yet. Don’t spread them in the sun ~ the garlic can get sunburn just like us!  We put them in the shed. 

Bill cleans the bulbs and composts the stems, working either outdoors or in our garage depending on the weather.

   

It’s always thrilling to see the bounty of the harvest! And a celebration. 

Here’s a how-to video. (please ignore the ramp reference here. I meant Scapes. I got too excited about the harvest ^:^)

Then you just have to dry or Cure the bulbs. This can take approximately two weeks or a month, depending on your location and weather ~ longer if it’s rainy and humid. 

The skins turn papery. You’ll now recognize them as the garlic bulbs you used to purchase at the market. (wink).

I find the bulbs just so artful…Beautiful color striations and shape and…

         

Here’s another good Bill tip: put your harvested garlic in their own nylon bags and label them.  This way your menu and cooking is more readily curated. 

And now you can indulge in some real garlic passions of your own. Why do you think all those romantic dinners include garlic in the recipe?

    

I promise, you will absolutely love growing and harvesting your very own garlic.

Please enjoy this Homegrown recipe from my cookbook, The Hamptons and Long Island Homegrown Cookbook:

 

From Chef Joe Isidori ~ who now owns and runs fabulous restaurants in Gotham and Florida. We adore his Arthur & Sons on 8th Avenue & Jane Street. It may be tough to get a table but sooo worth it. You can follow Chef Joe on Instagram too. The food is out of this world, hearkening back to his Father, Arthur, and good old-school menus. And oh ~ the desserts will leave you swooning! 

Enjoy.

Chef Joe Isidori plating his famous spicy rigatoni alla vodka Photo: Courtesy of Arthur & Sons website

Nonni’s Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato and Basil and Garlic

Serves 4

Gnocchi Dough (yield: approximately 1 lb. of dough):

1 1/2–2 c. all-purpose flour

1 lb. fresh ricotta cheese

1 c. pecorino cheese, grated

touch of sea salt

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 whole eggs

 

Mix all of the dry ingredients slowly in a bowl, starting with the flour first, then adding the wet ingredients. Mix until the desired texture is achieved. Add or subtract flour according to the feel of the dough. Knead for about 10 minutes, and allow to rest in a bowl covered with a damp cloth for about an hour.

When the dough is ready, pull off small ball-like pieces and roll them into long snake-like shapes. Cut each into roughly 1-inch pieces. Roll in flour or semolina to prevent sticking, place on a flat sheet pan, and freeze for about 1–2 hours or until firm/hard.

 

Tomato and Basil Sauce (yield approximately 1 qt.):

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

6 cloves garlic, sliced

1/4 c. shallot, sliced

pinch pepperoncini flakes

1 qt. canned tomatoes (San Marzano style or home-canned garden variety)

sea salt and black pepper, to taste

1 c. garden basil leaves

 

To a hot pan, add olive oil, garlic, and shallot. When the garlic has browned, add pepperoncini; after about 10 seconds, add the tomatoes and season. Cook for 3–5 minutes. Toss in fresh basil leaves, and reserve.

 

To assemble:

fresh grated pecorino cheese, to garnish

basil, to garnish

extra virgin olive oil, to garnish

 

In a pot of boiling water, boil the gnocchi until tender. In a sauté pan, add a little of the tomato sauce and toss your cooked gnocchi with the sauce and a little of the pasta cooking water (very little). Coat the gnocchi completely, place it in a serving bowl, and spoon the desired amount of the remaining sauce over the gnocchi. Finish with a sprinkle of fresh grated pecorino cheese, more basil, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Buon Appetito!  And thank you, again, Chef… 

(*Grey Duck garlic)

2 Comments

  • Garden Glamour

    Thank you so much for your keen, supportive feedback about growing the garlic. Hope it will guide you in your garlic journey! And the recipe from Chef Joe Isidori is so delicious ~ I'm honored and excited to pass it on to you & all readers. But the Homegrown book is best 🙂 Cheers.

  • Anonymous

    That is wonderful. All that info on how to grow the garlic plus a super recipe is appreciated. Thanks. I’ll keep your knowledge in a special file.

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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
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 I adore plants. Plants are my muse ~ they are my paramour… I’m a garden artist; a nature lover, & horticulturist. I’m an author & writer. My passion for culture & beauty, along with my trait curiosity, brings you an authentic celebration of life. I’m a storyteller ~ weaving the artful gifts of horticulture, garden design, tablescape decor, floral design, cocktail culture, garden-to-glass recipes & their glamorous garnishes, homegrown edibles, food & drink; & cooking, to bring you my flair & what I’ve been told is an avid elan ~ as well as the stories from those who inspire me ~ to pursue an elegant, enduring, & joyful, entertaining lifestyle. It’s an honor & a privilege to do what you love.

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