Valley Bounty, September 28, 2013: Garlic
Plump, firm fall garlic is available now at farmers’ markets, farm stands, and some local retailers, demonstrating that even crops that store and travel fairly well are better when they’re closer to home and harvest. If you’d like to plant some for next year, buy it now from local farmers and break apart the heads into individual cloves for planting. Search out a farm that grows several varieties to experience the range of flavors and colors available.
Next weekend’s Garlic and Arts Festival, in Orange, MA, is a great event for the garlic-lover. You’ll find many kinds of garlic available to taste and buy for cooking or for planting, workshops on growing garlic, plus garlic games and garlicky food.
River Valley Market is also offering a garlic planting workshop, October 15th at 6:30 pm.
CISA’s list of garlic growers and farmstands selling garlic is here.
There are, of course, millions of ways to use garlic. My recommendation on these first cool nights of fall is to roast a head or two until they are soft, then spread them on crusty bread. Brush any dirt or loose skin off of a head of garlic. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of it, wrap in tinfoil, and bake at 400° for 30 or 40 minutes or until soft. If you want to do more than one head, you can wrap them all up together. If you want to cut a little bit of the top of the head off before you put on the olive oil, you can do that, too. If you are grilling, you can throw the tinfoil package on the grill instead of in the oven.
Garlic stores well through much of the winter. It’s best to store it in cool, dry and dark conditions, in a mesh or paper bag that allows some air circulation. Most basements are too damp. An unheated closet or back room can be very good, so long as there is enough heat from the rest of the house that it does not freeze. CISA’s information on home winter storage can be found here.
Garlic can also be frozen or dried to bridge the gap between the last of your stored cloves and the spring’s first green garlic.
Growing Your Own
Garlic is easy and gratifying to grow; you plant it in the fall and it emerges in early spring and is usually ready to harvest in late July. Find detailed instructions from UMass Extension.