We have always grown garlic at Terra Firma, even before our farm received its name.
Garlic grows all over the world, and is fairly ubiquitous among international cuisines. There are varieties that grow better in areas with very cold winters, and others that thrive in the tropics. For us at Terra Firma, Garlic is an “overwintering” crop, planted in the fall and harvested right at the start of summer. Garlic doesn’t produce seeds like most other vegetables. Instead, it is “cloned” by “cracking” the heads into individual cloves and planting them. Each clove grows into a plant, and then eventually makes a new head.
In a year with average precipitation or higher, it can be a “dry-farmed” crop for us here in Yolo County — requiring little or no irrigation at all.
This year — our driest winter on record — we’ve had to irrigate the garlic quite a bit. The only upside to the lack of rain is that the garlic has avoided the fungal infections that would normally occur. Most years, we have to spray the crop several times with an organic fungicide made, ironically enough, from garlic oil. This year, we haven’t sprayed it a single time.
Once the garlic has formed heads and cloves, it is harvested and “cured” in a warm, dry environment for a few weeks. Our climate here is close to perfect for curing and storing garlic, and we can generally store it for six months without climate control, until wet weather arrives again in the fall.
But we don’t wait until June to harvest all of our garlic. Once the plants are about the size of scallions, we start to pick a small amount and put it in your boxes. This a delicious and fragrant version of “Show and Tell” through which our CSA subscribers get to see the garlic as it grows and develops. You will see the plants get taller, fatter, and then finally start to develop heads that separate into bulbs.
So this week marks the official start of our “Garlic Season”. By now, you should have finished all the dry garlic we sent you last fall, and hopefully, are ready for a new crop.