“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.
To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”
Alfred Austin, poet (1835 – 1913)
Although perhaps not when it’s 34 degrees Celsius.
I have just come in from harvesting my first crop of garlic. It’s hot, I’m now sweaty and red-faced, but I have to say it feels pretty satisfying.
In April, I prepared the garlic bed. I layered straw on top of shredded paper (years of archived tax returns are finally proving to be of use) on top of grass clippings. I then created small hollows in the straw, poured in soil and planted the cloves into each pocket of soil. And most of them grew. I’d say it was a 95% success rate. I planted two head of Southern Glen and two head of Italian Red, both certified organic and both mail order from The Diggers Club.
Fast forward six months, and the garlic leaves had just started to wilt, turning brown and crisp in the last week. Apparently this is the best time to pick them. If you wait until the leaves are completely brown, the garlic cloves will likely have burst from their skins and this makes them difficult to store. Of course, you can also pick them too early and the cloves will be small and won’t store well. I think, all bar one (the largest has just started to burst through its’ enclosing), the bulbs seem pretty perfect to me.
I took my spoils into our shed, tied the garlic by the leaves with hay-bailing twine, and hung it in bunches from a metal ladder that sits atop the shed rafters. There they will stay, hanging and drying for some weeks, until the leaves and outside layers are crisp. This is called ‘curing’ the garlic. Fingers crossed. Well cured garlic will last for months.
Some of the bulbs are beautiful and big, others smaller but still worth drying and storing. With any luck, this lot will keep us going until next Spring when we’ll harvest our second crop.
Hot on the tails of my garlic joy, I thought I’d pull up some of my onions too. And oh, what a disappointment they are! Here is one of them lying on a wooden bench being dwarfed by the garlic bulbs. It’s pathetic, absolutely pathetic. Not even the size of my thumb nail, it doesn’t even deserve to be called ‘onion’. I think I shall re-name them Spring Onions and eat them as such.
So a win, and a loss. And the lesson: onions need to be watered too it turns out. Mental note for next time.
Kim, who lives locally, grows the most amazing garlic. She sells plaits of it at the Nabiac Farmers’ Market. We were lucky enough to get a plait last Christmas as a gift and it hung in our kitchen for some time before I could bring myself to snip off a bulb for cooking. When I first saw Kim’s plaits, I was “extounded” (as The Kid would say), and I gushed with enthusiasm, ‘wow, Kim, you should enter your garlic in the Show!’ Ever so casually Kim replied ‘yeah, but I’d hate to win three years in a row.’
Needless to say my garlic will not be going in the Show, nor have I got enough to sell. But we will chop it, roast it, fry it, slice it, crush it, and add it to all manner of dishes and relish in the knowledge that it’s locally grown, free of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and hasn’t been washed in chlorine to make it sparkly white. Instead, it will simply bear a tin shed kind of glow.