Members from last season sadly experienced our first garlic-less season. The fickle winter/spring of 2013 played an evil cat and mouse game with garlic in the Midwest. Several cycles of unusual early warmth followed by extreme cold weakened and eventually killed 90% of our garlic crop. Garlic has always been sort of the automatic success for us, until last year. Garlic is planted in the fall and is the first plant out of the ground in the spring, so it can handle frost, but we learned only so much of it.  We always save garlic to plant in the fall for next year’s crop. It takes about 20% of the crop to maintain the prior year’s acreage. Note the math above, and you can see that we did not harvest enough in 2013 to even maintain our acreage (harvested 10%, but needed 20%). That makes 2014 a “building” year for the garlic crop.

The harvest happened last week and was a success once again. You are getting your first bulb this week and will receive garlic several more times this year as in prior years.  Garlic is one crop we have sold outside of the CSA in past years, you may have seen our garlic at Willy Street Coop. However the CSA boxes get priority on our farm, so we will have limited outside sales.

We have been trialing some new garlic varieties. Different varieties offer subtle differences in flavor, clove size, clove color and growing characteristics. In our first 20 years, we have been growing the varieties German, Music, and an unknown variety we have named Rose. Our trial varieties include Italian Red, White Russian, Leah, Red Grain, Belarus and Carpathian. We purchased these varieties from other farms in Wisconsin to test out on our land. Some of the varieties have been culled but the varieties that grow well for us will make to your share in future years.

A few of the kinds of garlic now in America came in with Polish, German and Italian immigrants over the centuries, but most of them came in all at once in 1989. The USDA had been asking the Soviets for permission to go to the Caucasus region to collect garlics but permission had always been refused because there were many missile bases in the area and this was where their spaceport was and is.

Finally, as the Soviet Union was disintegrating in 1989, they suddenly invited the Americans in to collect the garlics. They were under continuous armed guard and were allowed to travel only at night so they wouldn’t see anything of military importance. They went from village to village along the old Silk Road buying garlic from local markets and naming the cultivars after the town or village where they were purchased.

The USDA then contracted out the growing to a few private growers on a share-the-garlic basis. After the crop was harvested and the USDA got their share, these growers began to trade with each other and to sell some to friends and other garlic growers. That is how hundreds of garlic varieties became available over the last 15 or 20 years. Enjoy your garlic.

David

Planting garlic in the fall. One clove makes one garlic plant.

Planting garlic in the fall. One clove makes one garlic plant.

David undercutting the garlic. The tractor drags a blade beneath the soil free up the garlic. This makes it possible to easily pull the garlic from the dirt.

Before harvesting, David undercuts the garlic. The tractor drags a blade beneath the soil free up the garlic. This makes it possible to easily pull the garlic from the dirt.

The garlic harvest crew pulling garlic, twisting off dirt clumps from the root and putting it into crates.

The garlic harvest crew pulling garlic, twisting off dirt clumps from the root and putting it into crates.

A crate of freshly harvest garlic.

A crate of freshly harvest garlic.

Eric loads full crates of garlic onto the truck.

Eric loads full crates of garlic onto the truck.

We stack crates of garlic in the upper level of our dairy barn - the space that was originally used for stored hay. We put fans on the garlic to help it dry; this facilitates the curing process.

We stack crates of garlic in the upper level of our dairy barn – the space that was originally used for storing hay. We put fans on the garlic to help it dry; this facilitates the curing process.