Smells Like Fall: A Story of Tried & True Garlic

Smells Like Fall: A Story of Tried & True Garlic

By Tom Prohl, Fruit & Vegetable Production Manager

While fall is synonymous with root vegetables, soups, and roasts, one product you’ll see in the Farm Store at this time of the year is the tried and true garlic bulb. Check out this story from Farmer Tom on how rooted this crop is to our land:

It all starts in the fall, when everything else in the field is wrapping up. Frost is on the way and cold north winds are blowing. Late October finds most farmers sore and worn out from a long season in the sun, with tired backs from squash and pumpkin harvests. The soil is cool, and winter cover crops are seeded and grow slowly towards the first frost. One last chore remains unfinished: planting next year’s garlic.

Garlic planting is done by hand. I like to do it the old fashioned way with an antique wheeled furrow maker, and a bag of garlic slung over my shoulder. Before planting I sit and break the garlic bulbs down into individual cloves for planting. This can take hours, pleasantly aromatic, but fingers raw and sore by the end of the process.

Once the seed is broken down, and shallow furrows made in long straight lines, it is time to plant. A fist-width apart and pressed firmly into the earth is the fate of each clove. Next, straw bales are broken up and laid neatly over the crop, insulating for the winter ahead, and smothering weeds for the spring that follows.

Garlic always carries anxiety with it, at least for me. Expensive seed, expensive straw, long wet springs with fears of the whole crop rotting where it sits. Then finally, it all begins to emerge: bright green shoots plunging upwards through the soil, survival!, relief. The garlic grows quickly, reaching chest-height by late June before producing a lovely twisting flower bulb known as a scape. The scapes are clipped, encouraging bulb growth for the following month prior to bulb harvest. In late July, the garlic is harvested and lined up in the field for a day or two for drying. Next I clip the tops, bundle them for sale and hang them in the Farm Store.

Growing garlic is unique for many reasons, from its long process, winter hibernation, and many exciting milestones which touch all four seasons. My personal favorite: customers love garlic. Watching Farm Store customers bring garlic to their noses and take a long breath is a satisfying feeling. Equally satisfying is knowing that Wolfe’s Neck Center garlic is hanging in kitchens all over Freeport and beyond, filling homes with rich aromas, seasoning savory meals, and adding a farmy touch above the kitchen sink. These are the feelings that make farming beautiful.

Enjoy access to freshly harvested produce, glorious decorative (and edible!) pumpkins, and pasture-raised meats in our Farm Store before it closes for the season at the end of October. Every purchase supports the work we are doing to connect people to food and farming through educational programs and more. 

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