I grow a variety of garlic that I believe is called German Extra Hardy. If you’re a gardener anywhere in the northern temperate region, garlic is a fantastic thing to grow. It requires practically no maintenance, the deer don’t seem to like it, slugs ignore it, and as long as your soil is of good quality, it will take care of itself.
Fresh garlic from your own garden is nothing like the tiny, dried-out heads from China you get in the supermarket these days. There are other reasons to be concerned about Chinese garlic, too. Environmental restrictions there are not what they are here, to put it mildly, and there are fewer limits on the types of chemicals that are considered safe. Human waste is also used as fertilizer. I leave you to make up your own mind.
I got a few heads of this garlic from my friend Roland about five years ago. I decided not to eat it. Instead, I planted it in late October, covered it with seaweed, and forgot about it. The next year I had about ten garlic plants. Every year I saved more and more, until I peaked at about 125 plants last year. This year I’m down to 75, largely because I’m trying to practice crop rotation and I’ve run out of space.
Last year’s garlic was something to write about, so I did, in this post on Liz Ahl’s blog. The post itself is about my writing shed, but I managed to work the garlic in somehow. Here’s a pic of the bounty:
See, it gets big. Really big. Lots of people want to know if it’s elephant garlic. Elephant garlic is actually not true garlic, but a species of shallot. This is not elephant garlic, okay? It’s just really big garlic.
Why is it so big? Obviously that’s got something to do with genetics. But I also take tremendous care with my soil every year, practicing a variety of permaculture techniques which I’ll write about in another post. I think fertilizing and mulching with seaweed also has something to do with it. And every year I select only the biggest cloves for replanting. We eat the small ones. They’re unbelievably flavourful.
Here’s a pic of this year’s crop, taken just this morning:
The scapes ought to be appearing very soon, and then it will be time to make garlic scape pesto. Friends, if you’ve never had garlic scape pesto, then by God hie thee to the nearest farmer’s market this summer and get some scapes for yourself. Chop them up, throw them in a whizzer with olive oil, salt, and parmesan, and Bob’s your uncle.