When pondering what you should grow in the fall, there is one clear answer: Garlic. Easy to grow and rewarding, this allium is a powerful player in achieving optimum health. There are many websites with great instructions on growing, maintaining, harvesting and storing garlic. Take 1 clove of garlic and place in the ground in October (in Zone 6 New York), pointy side up, 2” deep and 6” apart. Cover with seed free mulch and wait patiently until the spring. You’ll first enjoy eating the garlic scapes in June and then finally the bulbs in mid-summer and on. You do NOT want to use garlic for planting from your regular grocery since it is likely sprayed with a substance to prevent sprouting, according to Witchcat Farms in Vermont. Buy directly from the farmer. We met the nice people at Witchcat Farm at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, New York. This was the 22nd year of the festival and runs at the end of the month every September. We loaded up on 2 organic varieties from Witchcat Farm: German Porcelain Music, 4-5 large cloves per head and mild in taste and the more unusual Hungarian Purple, with 6-8 cloves and more spicy and pungent in flavor.
The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival is one of over 50 garlic festivals in the country. There is everything garlic you can imagine. Garlic Hamburgers, Garlic Ice Cream, and Garlic Chocolate Chip cookies that we snatched up from Mountaindale Farm.
Over 45 garlic farms, mostly from New York State, set up gorgeous booths selling their incredible bounty. The other varieties we purchased were Spanish Rojas from Free Bird Farm, German Reds from Six Circles Farm, and Riesig from Cedarville Farm. We were especially excited about a rare variety called MarJean from The Garlic Devas in Lewis County New York. This garlic, with no official name, has been grown for generations in New York by Marty and Jean, neighbors of The Garlic Devas, thus the name, MarJean garlic. Marty and Jean are now in their mid 80’s and happy to see their garlic live on with The Garlic Devas. We are definitely planting lots of this variety and will continue Marty and Jean’s work.
We already harvested 200 garlic heads this July on our farm but we have to find the balance between how much we personally consume and how much we sell to become sustainable i.e. not having to buy more garlic to seed every season. This season we plan on upping the ante and planting at least 400 cloves.
In addition to garlic, there was honey which we bought from Swarmbustin Honey, Maple Syrup from Mapleland Farms, Garlic Vinegar from Rolling Hills. Gorgeous yellow oyster mushrooms from Wiltbank Farm in the Catskills, venison and buffalo products from Highland Deer Farm (the Buffalo steak was divine!). Why deer need to be farmed in this area is an enigma!
We stopped and spoke with David Stern current Director, writer, lecturer, horticulturist and cofounder of the Garlic Seed Foundation, an educational not-for-profit organization that promotes ecological production and hearty consumption of garlic. I asked him why, in New York State when we have a plethora of garlic farms, does grocery store garlic come from China or Argentina (even Whole Foods). His simple answer, as a farmer himself was, “Why would I sell my garlic cheap when I can make a better wage selling garlic locally at farmers markets and at garlic festivals like this one?” Good answer. Whole Foods and other grocers want to pay the lowest price for a product so as to maximize profits. Garlic farmers are smart and know where their markets are. We should all consider this when purchasing garlic for ourselves and our families. By paying a bit more for local garlic we support the farmers who work hard to grow the garlic, we ensure a local source of organic garlic and most importantly we keep the farms of our local garlic growers economically viable and able to stay in business. For more information on garlic, visit the Garlic Seed Foundation website and become a member. Once you do you have access to the garlic hotline - someone will answer all your questions on garlic! We joined and are looking forward to our first issue of The Garlic Press.
In honoring garlic in a recipe, something I love to do in so many ways, I decided to feature a Purple Basil Pesto. I grow a basil that tastes like a Genovese Italian Basil but with deep hues of purple. The resulting pesto turns out to be more black than purple but can be a gorgeous counterpoint in pasta or bread if topped with a chiffonade of green basil. Out of the various pesto recipes I've tried, this is the one I go back to everytime. It's so good, you could even leave out the cheese making this dairy-free and won't feel deprived.
RECIPE: BASIL PESTO
2 garlic cloves
3 Tbs toasted pine nuts
3 cups basil leaves, stems removed
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor, process garlic, salt and pine nuts first. Then add basil and olive oil. When smooth add parmesan just to combine. If freezing, do not add parmesan until you defrost and use it in the future.
Adapted from Deborah Madison