January Food for Thought

January may seem like an odd time to obsess over harvesting garlic, but here I am, doing exactly that. Dan, Steve, Peter, Glenn, the kids, and I just spent four days at the NOFA-NY winter conference in Saratoga, and while there were many great takeaways, garlic is front and center. Ever since losing access to the big Williams barn, I’ve questioned how growers with limited space cure and store a large crop. After a three-hour workshop devoted to the topic, I learned that our current method of hanging bunches, while both effective and visually striking, is not the only way to do it. Many successful growers mow the tops immediately before harvest, leaving 8” of stalk. Then they harvest the bulbs and spread them out wherever they can provide enough air circulation to dry down the necks. Not only is this method equally effective and less labor-intensive, it also allows for a more efficient use of space. In other words, I’d be a chump not to try it, therefore, I will.

I also gleaned some seed saving advice from organic gurus Karl Hammer, from the Vermont Compost Company, and Jean-Paul Courtens, from Roxbury Farm. After years of saving our own garlic seed, our cloves have evolved into grape-sized giants—wonderful for cooks, but problematic on the seed saving end. Nowadays, our average bulb yields four big cloves, w