This year we grew 320 heads of garlic. For the next year we’re shooting for a new record: 400 heads.
While I don’t think we’ll ever grow thousands of heads in our relatively tiny urban backyard (we’ll leave that to the pros), it is such a reliable and enjoyable crop that we are exploring scaling up our production to the point that we can:
- Produce enough for ourselves to eat all year.
- Save enough back for planting stock for the next year.
- Have enough left over to sell some.
We won’t ever become wealthy selling a couple hundred heads of garlic, but I do like the idea of learning about the intricacies of gourmet garlic and being able to share that information and enjoyment with others locally.
I’m already making plans to improve our curing environment and my garlic cleaning skills. This was the first year that I really sat down and sorted, graded and cleaned (literally with a toothbrush) all of our garlic at one time. (I remember all too well those 5 hours spent on the front porch, developing sore hands and garlic wrapper slivers.) Now the garlic is pretty, clean and ready to use without having to worry about getting soil on my cutting board. In the process, though, I learned that I was a little overzealous in cleaning and probably pulled off a few too many wrappers, which could shorten the bulbs’ storage life. So I know where I can make some improvements next year.
We already have 200 cloves in the soil, and we’ll probably get the last 200 in over the weekend. We’re growing 100 heads each of:
- German Extra-Hardy (originally planted in 2009 and grown from our own stock ever since)
- Russian Red (originally planted in 2010)
- Inchelium Red (replanted with Chert Hollow’s 2011 stock after I mixed up our own varieties)
- Duganski (planted for the first time in 2011)
For me, planting garlic is the official acknowledgement that fall has come. It’s also a celebration that we’ve learned how to grow at least a small portion of our own food. And that small portion is growing each year.