Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.


3/31/2014

Blessing the Hands that Feed UsI generally observe the Fridays in Lent by eating only what I’ve grown myself and refer to these days as Homegrown Fridays. I have to admit, doing that in late winter presents some challenges and I take time to think through what I am going to eat and how I am going to prepare it. Last year I did this in the midst of writing Grow a Sustainable Diet: Planning and Growing to Feed Ourselves and the Earth,which is published now. I wrote about Homegrown Fridays in that book and in previous years in this blog. This year I am deep into writing a new book—Seed Libraries and other means of keeping seeds in the hands of the people. Watch for it to come out in early 2015. Both books are published by New Society Publishers. Being so busy, I thought I’d ease up a little on my self-imposed rules and allow other ingredients in my Homegrown Friday meals to go along with my homegrown food. I did have some new additions from my 2013 harvest and you can read about that here.

I rarely hear of anyone else doing this, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover the book Blessing the Hands That Feed Us by Vicki Robin in January. Although she wasn’t growing all her own food, in that book Robin tells of her month long journey eating only food grown within a 10-mile radius of her home. She prepared for this and allowed a few of what she called exotics—oil, lemons and limes, salt, a few spices, and caffeine. Robin co-authored Your Money or Your Life years ago and is adept at thrift. That book is about how to live with less stuff and enjoy your life more. Looking at what something costs in dollars is much different than looking at what something costs in life energy. Your Money or Your Life was about accounting for your life energy in all of your pursuits. Focusing on a 10-mile diet was different. The focus was on the life energy of everything around her and how she would be using it. Everything about her food became important, from the people who grew it to the soil it was grown in.

Food is all around us, but once you embark on a journey like this, taking account of all that goes into it, you might be like me—not finding much I want in the grocery store. I don’t want to consume pesticides that are used on food brought from far away and I certainly don’t want the workers who grew the food to be exposed to such harmful practices. I’m concerned about how the soil is used to grow my food and the transportation cost to the environment.

Everything is interconnected and everything is important. Our actions and our attitudes do matter and can set off a wave of energy that, although small at first, will gain momentum as it joins with the energy of others. Vicki Robin refers to sustainability as an extreme sport and I would agree. It is an adventure that can take us to lives we can’t yet imagine, but will be just what we’ve always been looking for. So, plant a garden and get to know others who grow what you don’t. Eat a local sustainable diet and watch your footprint shrink and your world expand.

Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she’s up to at www.HomeplaceEarth.Wordpress.com.



3/31/2014

It is officially spring! The seed and plant catalogs have been rolling in for months, making their way into homes covered in snow and ice. But with the daffodils popping, the swallows returning, and all the other tell-tale harbingers of the new season arriving, it feels like time to dust off those catalogs and get down to planning the 2014 garden. Before getting all crazy about new plantings, it’s a good idea to take stock of what survived and what needs to be repurposed into compost.

Rosemary worth keeping

Out here in Oregon, we had one of the harshest winters on recent record. As a result, many of our normally hardy perennial herbs didn't overwinter. One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been getting this year is “is my rosemary (or lavender, sage, or thyme) dead?” Sadly, much of the time I’ve had to answer yes. I’d like to share a few basic ways to determine the course of action for these four herbs that can be applied to other (usually) hardy perennials as well.

Rosemary

Rosemary doesn’t like to have its root zone saturated with water. Wet winters with extended periods of standing water will kill your rosemary quickly. Likewise, heavy snow will snap branches and freezing conditions will kill the tender growing tips. Sadly, rosemary tends to go through a long, drawn out death. It’s basically the same demise as a Christmas Tree that has been cut: the root system has died, but the plant stays green for a while, then loses some leaves, then loses some of its shine and luster, and finally ends up a fire hazard.

Dead Rosemary

When to prune. If just the tips of the plant are brown and the rest of the plant appears green and vibrant, give the plant a chance. It’s likely that your plant suffered from frost damage. Prune off any dead sections, keeping in mind the end result of your pruning, and wait and see. It is also possible that the roots are dying and the energy is retreating from the tips first.

When to yank. If your plant has an overall dull appearance (ie the leaves are still greenish but appear sort of cloudy and maybe even a little bit crunchy and can be stripped from the stem easily), it is time to yank it. Another way to check if the plant has life coursing through it or not is to take a sharp fingernail or knife and strip away part of the outer bark on the stem. If you see green in there, there is life. If you see nothing but brown, that section is dead. You can also study a cross-section of the stem, looking for a green living tissue. Here’s the deal with rosemary, in my honest opinion, it needs to be replaced every now and then. It’s hard to say goodbye to an old garden friend, and rosemary is my favorite herb, but it gets very woody and scraggly with many pruning’s and it is best to just pop in a new one periodically. It also gives you a chance to try new varieties.

lavender to prune

Lavender

Like rosemary, lavender likes warm weather and well drained soil. A lack of either or both will do it in. It can be tricky to determine if your lavender is worth hoping for a healthy recovery or not because they tend to look a bit scraggly in early spring. There are a few signs to look for, however.

When to prune. If the lower portion of the plant is still silver green, leaves are full and vibrant, and the only brown on the plant is from the previous year’s flowers, you’ve got it made. Prune in early spring, and prune hard. I suggest pruning at least half of the healthy portion of the plant back. This will keep your lavender from becoming excessively woody with time and encourage more blooms. It seems harsh, but it’s good for the plant. An exception to this would be if you like the sort of bonsai-ed look of a lavender with exposed lower branches and tufts of leaves and flowers at the top which can be a neat look for older plants.

lavender to yank

When to yank It’s time to get out the shovel when the lower portion of the plant is brown. Look closely. Sometimes you will find that there are new green leaf buds popping along the stem. If there are, then prune as suggested above. Keep in mind that how patient you are with babying your plants along. I have a hard time giving up on plants, but I’m a softie. You can also use the technique of looking for green in the stem.

Sage

Culinary sages (examples: Salvia officinalis, Berggarten, TriColor, Golden)  can take the cold pretty well. They don’t love the wet ground so it’s a good idea to plant them on a high spot in the garden, a pot, or in soil amended with sand. We’ve had good luck with some of our more decorative varieties in mild winters, but some of the more unusual decorative varieties like Karwinski’s Red and even Saltillo Sage, will need to be potted up and brought into a warm location for the winter. Some we just treat as annuals and plan to replace each year.

prune sage
When to prune.
If there is a lot of healthy growth at the tips of each branch, it’s safe to say your sage is coming back for the year. Prune way back, like with lavender, and you will get a flush of healthy new growth. With culinary sages, it’s pretty normal for the bottom leaves of the plant to turn brown and yucky over the winter. If you carefully remove the spent leaves you will find new growth sprouting out if the plant has overwintered. For decorative sages that form a basal rosette, you can expect the upright stalk to completely die-back in winter. New leaves will form at the base of last year’s growth. It’s a good idea to leave part of the stalk or a garden marker where the plant should be showing up. Also, watch for slugs – they are great opportunists of new shoots!

When to yank. If there is no sign of life anywhere on the plant. If you have done the green-stem test and there is nothing but brown. Give a gentle tug a the base of the plant. If the plant feels like it could easily release from the soil, you might as well give it a good firm yank and throw it in the compost heap for some nice woody material.

Dead Sage

Thyme

When spring rolls around, many herbs snap into life and start a beautiful flourish of new growth. Thyme is not always among them. Dead foliage from the previous year tends to hang on to the green coming through at the base – and that’s actually a good thing! The spent foliage forms a protective layer of insulation for the new growth from snow and frost.

When to prune. Prune your thyme when the danger of frost has past (to the best of your knowledge!) Like the other herbs listed in this blog, thyme is in the Lamiaceae or mint family, and it loves a good hard pruning to stimulate new growth. If there is a good base of green on your thyme, it is worth keeping. This is true of both upright culinary and creeping thyme varieties.

healthy thyme

When to yank. It’s good-bye thyme (sorry - I couldn’t resist one bad thyme joke!) when the plant has an overall look of brown or if the green lively parts are so few and far between that the plant would look odd if pruned. Rest assured that thyme grows into a harvestable plant the first year and you will soon have thyme in the garden again.

The sooner you can make the decision to prune or yank the better. It’s getting late for seed starting, but we do carry many varieties of lavender, sage, and thyme by seed as well as common rosemary. If you are in Oregon, check us out at our nursery in Alsea – we open for the season April 15th!

Dead Thyme



3/31/2014

Building Layered Garden Beds

Last summer (2013) we read about building garden beds using a layering system. This entailed making layers of logs/sticks, cardboard/paper, compost, soil, dung and straw.

Front bed

The idea is that the logs/sticks break down and replace nutrients into the bed. The cardboard and paper hold moisture. The compost and dung improve the soil immediately by adding organic matter and the straw acts like a mulch, suppressing weeds, slowing evaporation and stopping erosion of the soil by the wind.

We have one area in our front garden where there is natural shade in the Summer. Trees have grown along the outside of the fence and we have an almond tree inside. In the summer the leaves give shade and in the winter the bare branches allows the sunlight to stream down.

Correctly Site Compost Bins

Originally we placed our compost bins here, but we soon found that they were in the wrong place. Too far away from the growing area of our garden meant that energy was used walking around the garden to place anything in it. We decided to build a layered bed here instead, hoping that the shade the trees produce will help our crops in the summer when the heat is around 40 degrees.

Raised bed (2)

Build a Rock Wall

We spent time collecting rocks, from our pool mound and moving them from the back of the garden to the front. We marked out where we wanted the bed to go, just making a line by clearing the weeds and proceeded to build a rock wall. We chose to go behind the tree with the wall as we really did not want to remove it, it would give more shade to our bed especially at the height of the day when the sun is directly above.

raised bed front

It took us 2 weeks to build the wall, remembering we had to find the rocks first, then the fun bit started. We placed logs and sticks that we have collected from pruning’s along the bottom. We covered it with the large cardboard boxes you can see in the picture and emptied the black bags of paper over the top. (So that got rid of all the rubbish!)

We covered all of this with a layer of compost. Next we added a reasonably thick layer of soil dug out from our land. We covered that with a layer of sheep dung that our friend the shepherd had given us.

We had to do this in sections as it was such a big area to fill.

Garden Watering System

Next we needed to put in a watering system but we needed to be able to control how much water would be used. Using a water butt and attaching a pipe and tap we had our water holder. Next we placed the black drip feed piping onto the bed using T pieces and taps. We split the bed into 5 sections and placed taps on every section so that if they are not planted up we don’t have to water them. This ensured we could water just the bits we needed too. By the way, the water pipe was collected from a field where they had replaced a system and just discarded the old. We spent 3 mornings there sorting and untangling the pipes. We now have enough piping to irrigate the whole garden! And all for free! All we have purchased are the T pieces and the taps!

DSC00369

At the end of February 2014, we planted up this bed with peas, broad beans, kale, spinach, leaf beet, tomatoes, carrots, climbing beans, lettuce and potatoes. We still have one section left on the bed unplanted, I am hoping to put salad seeds in there in March. I mixed all the plants up hoping that the range will confuse the pests and so lower any problems. We then covered everything with straw to make sure the pipes were covered. Now we have to wait and see what happens!



3/28/2014

In sitting down to write this article, I wanted to go deep into the soil food web. I wanted to start from the ground up on how the different bacterium and mycorrhiza work together with plants and trees and help make them a better, stronger version of themselves. I wanted to inspire you the way I have been inspired. Then I came to the realization that I would just be repeating information that was already out there. I would just be siting sources of this wonderful knowledge and rewriting it in my own voice. That’s boring, for me and for you.

What I want to do is show you how to use this knowledge the way I have this past year. I want to show you how to make mycorrhizal fungi on your own. You could go out and buy it (as I did for experimentation) and do it that way, but like I have asked in past articles “what if there was no home depot?”

fungi 2

Mycorrhiza: The Basics

Mycorrhiza can be broken down to its root words and translated literally to “root fungus”. Whether fungus makes you think of yellow toenails or mushrooms on a pizza, most don’t realize the impact they do and can have on all life on Earth. They are an amazing life-form that we are just scratching the surface of their potential. One use that commercial growers and nurseries have known for a while but is now starting to trickle to the average gardener is the symbiotic relationship mycorrhizal fungi has with plants.

All life has co-evolved with bacteria and fungi over millions of years. All life depends on life. Life not only needs to eat life to live but they also need to work together to be successful. Even humans have co-evolved with other life to get to where we are today. Mitochondria, a component in our cells that creates energy for the cell to produce proteins and molecules for cell function and reproduction has some of its own genetic code intact. This is theorized as occurring because at one point in time it was its own organism. It starting working with other cells and over time they became dependent on each other. In the bigger picture, roughly 90% of the cells in our body belong to other organisms. Only 10% of the cells that make up us are actually us. We wouldn’t be able to live without the other micro-organisms we evolved with. And plants are the same way.

Fungi 3

The roots of plants can only take in nutrients within its rhizosphere, or the area surrounding its roots. This area encompasses about 1/10 of an inch around the roots. Think about it. All that fertilizer, compost, water and whatever else you dump in the soil is only getting to the plant if it is 1/10 of an inch away from the roots. The rest is wasted. To better survive, the plants root system secretes out certain exudates (organic acids and sugars) to attract particular organisms (fungi and bacteria) for whatever micro-nutrient the plant is lacking. Fungi spread out in root-like stringy webs called hypha and bring the nutrients to the rhizosphere to trade them for the exudates. This basically increases the area of the plants rhizosphere and thus more access to nutrients for the plant.

This alone makes me want to use these little organisms in my garden, but a strong colony of beneficial fungi and bacteria crowd out the harmful ones leaving the plant in better condition. It helps the plant resist pests and diseases, helps the plants from overstressing, and can also increase drought tolerance. Many studies from around the world have shown the benefits of encouraging this symbiotic relationship. So while you can go buy specific species of fungi to add to your garden and fields’, making them on your own is as easy as creating an environment for what is already in the soil to thrive.

Creating Soil Helpers: They Work Hard So You Don’t Have To

Fungi 4

Fungi and Bacteria are classified as decomposers. If they weren’t around we would quickly be swimming in un-decomposed organic matter. Though paradoxically, without them we would not have that organic matter in the first place. Bacteria are nitrogen loving and capable of ingesting only the simplest of micro-nutrients and sugars. Woody carbon-filled matter is what fungi are good at breaking down with the enzymes it creates. Knowing this I set out to establish different environments for both organisms to grow.

For the bacteria I made sure to have lots of small organic materials for them to munch on. Layering my compost pile with a good ratio of carbon to nitrogen ensures that the organic matter breaks down enough for the bacteria. Air and water are needed for this as well so a moist and aerated compost pile with plenty of brown and green material is a perfect breeding ground for beneficial bacteria. Lots of worms showing up in your compost pile are a sign of many decomposers present since this is the worm’s main diet. The excreted material leftover by the worms is also a great addition for soil fertility. I cover my compost pile with straw or leaves since UV light can kill the bacterial colonies you are encouraging to grow.

Hoop Tunnel 1

For the fungi I covered my low hoop tunnel bed last fall with straw while my remaining summer crops were wrapping up for the year. Before winter came I added a good amount of leaves I collected in the Compost Bandit over the top of the straw. This mulch covered the fungi within the soil and enabled them to grow around the straw. This method is easier than composting because it requires you to do the opposite; you don’t turn it. As mentioned earlier, fungi spread out with thin stringy webs called hypha. Turning and mixing the soil would destroy that hypha killing the network the fungi had created. This is why no-till or low-till is more beneficial in the long run than tilling the ground up every year. You are making it harder for the beneficial fungi to grow which limits their presence for the plants come spring time.

Before spring came this year, I carefully removed all the leaves from my garden bed exposing all the fungi that had been growing there. The next step was to add the bacteria filled compost directly on top. This gives me fungi, bacteria, and good compost to make my garden bed a fertile one for this year’s crops. When pulling out the few weeds that had managed to grow under the leaves, I saw the fungi all wrapped up in the roots. This was a good sign of things to come for the plants I wanted to grow there this year.

Hoop Tunnel 2

In a world where we are too impatient for things to come, it makes sense to find simple ways of doing things so we can more easily make the transition from short term thinking to long term. Growing beneficial fungi doesn’t take any work from you other than setting up an area that encourages growth. There is no tossing and mixing. There is no checking on it daily. It should be added to your end of the year garden preparation for winter. This will not only enable you to use less fertilizers and pesticides but will also make your plants all the more happier and healthier, passing those benefits on to you.

Sources: “Teaming with Microbes” by Jeff Lowenfels, Wayne Lewis

"Introduction to Micorrhizas," Mycorrhizas.info

"Micorrhizal Effects on Host Plant Physiology," Fred T. Davies Texas A&M University

"The Microbial World: Micorrhizas," Jim Deacon, Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh



3/26/2014

Baby Pepper Plant in a PotSo your container veggie garden did fabulous last year and you are jazzed to start the season strong.  You wonder, should I throw out my old soil and start with new?  I’d recommend to re-vitalize it!

The best thing to do is to remove your potting soil and mix 1 part compost to 2 parts existing potting soil with all natural fertilizer.

Homemade Organic Fertilizer Recipe

To make your own balanced all natural fertilizer:

1/3 cup of green sand (potash and minerals)
1/3 cup of rock phosphate or bone meal (phosphorous and minerals)
1/3 cup of alfalfa or soybean meal (nitrogen)
1 tbsp Azomite (70 minerals and trace elements)

This fertilizer recipe is good for 40 quarts of potting soil.  Just mix it in with compost and your old potting soil to rejuvenate your old potting soil for this season.  

While you have your potting soil out (just use a garbage bag to dump it into and mix your new), you can add a self-watering pot reservoir in the bottom of your pot to extend time between watering.  Gardener’s Supply Company makes them.  They are kind of pricey, but you can make your own as well.

If you are just not that energetic this year, mix in a couple of inches of compost and your natural fertilizer mix at the top of your container before you plant.

For pots that I have self-seeders in, I wait for them to get to a decent size before I add a layer of compost mixed with fertilizer and top with mulch.  Mulch forms a very hard layer so only the seeds with very strong stems can break through mulch.  Mulch helps keep the moisture in the pots when summer comes and keeps the soil temperature more moderate.

You can use the potting soil you remove for your new containers, in your garden, to add to your compost pile or to fill in low spots in the yard.

For more tips on gardening in small spaces, visit Melodie’s blog at www.VictoryGardenOnTheGolfCourse.com.



3/26/2014

What Zone are You In?

When planting seed in the vegetable garden or picking fruit and nut trees for your yard or the back forty, its best to do some research on local climate conditions. Temperature and rainfall vary widely across the country and around the world. The average annual precipitation or the average temperature determines which types of crops will grow the best in your area. The USDA first published a plant hardiness zone map based on temperature in 1960. Hardiness zones are based on the average annual extreme minimum temperature during a 30-year period in the past, not the lowest temperature that has ever occurred in the past or might occur in the future.

The statistical average, which used to be termed as “Normal” is changing as was shown in the last blog post. By my estimate the Hardiness Zones moved north 100 miles between 1990 and 2006. The change seems to have accelerated. In Kansas we are able to grow Fig trees on the south side of our houses, an impossibility without a greenhouse 20 years ago. Here is a map that shows the Plant Hardiness Zones.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones

The zones are numbered from 1 – 7, and assigned a color from red, warmest, to blue and pink which are cooler. But first, let’s find your zone. By clicking on the USDA Hardiness Zone Map you can zoom in to your location. Using the USDA website you can zoom in by state and county for a detailed view. A close up view will show the differences between bottom lands along a river and the hilltops and bluffs above the river as shown in the lighter shade of green in the area around the Kaw river from Topeka to Kansas City. (my zones)

Close up view or river bottoms and bluffs.

As shown below, In my area, the Zone value given is 6a. Zone 6a has a range of -10F to -5F.

Zone 6a Plant Hardiness Zone in Kansas City Area

Now, let’s look at some historical data from the Kansas City area. Weather Warehouse provides a good tabulation of data shown below. Note the column Lowest Temperature and then look at the Plant Hardiness Zone from the zoom-able USDA website. Although this area has a rating of -10F to -5F, the average lowest temperature between 2001 to 2013 seems to be above zero or about Zone 7a which is 0F to 5F. This correlates with our experience in this area, it gets warmer sooner.

Historical Temperature and Weather Data

So, When Should You Plant?

The Northern Hemisphere had it’s 12th warmest winter on record. Here is the USA, where parts of the country had the coldest winter in 20 years and Tuscon and Las Vegas had the warmest on record, what should we do in our respective zones? My conclusion:

  1. Use the Plant Hardiness Zone Map as a guide.
  2. Measure soil temperature as detailed in Part 1 of this series.

Post Script

The Politics of the Plant Hardiness Zone Map

This is absolutely fascinating. It is classic case of denial. In 2002 the USDA decided to update the Zone Map. In conjunction with the American Horticultural Society a new map was developed but rejected by the USDA. It was rejected with no comment. It was obvious to the Bush administration that adding new zones due to warmer temperatures would be perceived as evidence of global warming. It was not until 2012 that a new map was issued with the new climate zones.

References

USDA Agricultural Research Service

The USDA 2012 Hardiness Zone Map and Some of Its Predecessors

The Polar Vortex vs. The Artctic Amplification



3/25/2014

When you attend a farmers market where garlic is being sold, you may see the bulbs being marketed as ‘Gourmet Garlic’, but does that label actually mean anything? Perhaps surprising to some, ‘Gourmet Garlic’ isn’t just a marketing gimmick. Although not every bulb labeled gourmet is authentic as such, there are definite differences between gourmet garlic and the standard garlic you purchase at the supermarket.

Gourmet garlic begins with exceptional planting stock. Each clove selected for planting should be plump, firm and, above all, healthy (Growing Gourmet Garlic Part 2: Choosing Which Bulbs to Plant, Growing Gourmet Garlic Part 4: Cracking and Clove Selection). The soil in which the garlic is to be planted must also be healthy, nutrient-rich and well-prepared (Growing Gourmet Garlic Part 3: When to Plant and Soil Preparation). Careful attention must also be pGarlic1aid to the method of planting. Stock intended for a gourmet market is normally planted by hand and spaced further apart than the more intensively farmed garlic often used in processing. Planting by hand minimizes clove damage and the extra space allows the plants more room to grow larger bulbs. We plant our cloves at least 6 in. to 8 in. apart (Growing Gourmet Garlic Part 5: Spacing, Planting, and Mulching), and we have noticed that it really does make a difference in the overall size of our bulbs, although some cultivars are naturally larger than others.

Gourmet garlic should also be grown naturally, without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Although this means we spend weeks each year on our hands and knees keeping the beds clear, we really do find that having weed-free rows positively influences garlic growth. Garlic is a poor competitor when it is small, so any help it can be given goes a long way. Another measure to help ensure that your garlic will produce the biggest bulbs possible is the timely removal of the scapes from the hardneck varieties. Although this makes a greater difference to some cultivars then others, removing the flowering stalk encourages the garlic to put more energy into producing a fatter gourmet bulb.

Hand-harvesting, as opposed to mechanical means, is the norm for gourmet garlic. Harvesting garlic by hand helps minimize damage, such as nicks or bruising, to the bulbs and also provides the opportunity for an initial round of culling of any bulbs that may be diseased or otherwise compromised. Damaged bulbs are then disposed of appropriately, reducing the risk that other bulbs may become contaminated. At Calling Quail we undercut and lift the garlic beds (those roots can be long!) and then pick up each bulb by hand for examination before it is placed in the harvest boxes. The harvest boxes are placed in storage after each bed has been pulled, minimizing the exposure of the bulbs to the sun.

Once in from the field, gourmet garlic is cleaned and clipped by hand. Each of our bulbs has the stalk cut to 1 in. and the roots trimmed to approximately 1/2 in. This length of stalk not only provides a sturdy handle, but also helps the bulb remain tightly wrapped in as many layers of skin as possible. The layers of outside skin help prolong storage capability, in part by preventing moisture, insects, and disease-causing organisms to enter and spoil the bulb.

We cut the stalks and roots of our bulbs using a modified band saw. The speed and sharpness of the saw enables us to get a quick, clean and even cut, which not only looks neat, but also prevents any sharp edges that may damage neighboring bulbs in storage and transit. Processing the garlic by hand this way prevents bruising and mechanical damage, and also gives us a chance to double-check the integrity of each bulb. We also make sure to remove any lingering clumps of dirt from the roots, since this will add extra moisture and, well, dirt to the storage space.

While being cut, the bulbs are also sorted into different size groups.Market bags Gourmet garlic should consist of bulbs that are uniform, large and heavy for that particular cultivar. Our very large bulbs from each type we save for seed, and we have seen an increase in the average size of our bulbs over the last few years. Our normal large-sized and average sized bulbs for each cultivar are either sold wholesale or put into our market bags, and our smallish average and small-size bulbs are saved back to be processed into a variety of products, or consumed by us.

Before we pack up a shipment for wholesale or put together bags for market, the designated bulbs are checked for firmness, and any loose or damaged skins are removed. The bulbs are also brushed to make sure that only a minimal amount of dirt still clings to the root area. Our storage area is monitored for appropriate temperature and humidity, and we leave the garlic in storage until just before an order needs to go out. Only then is the garlic packed accordingly into airy boxes which hold no more than 20lbs of garlic each.

So you can understand why, with all this careful work, that we designate certain garlic as gourmet. But, there is more to it than that. Gourmet garlic simply tastes better. Generations of cultivation have produced thriving plants whose taste and flavor is stronger, richer, and more complex than the bleached, irradiated garlic for sale in a regular supermarket. The aroma is more pungent, the aftertaste lingers longer on the tongue, and the texture is firmer, plumper and juicier. You can select cultivars that are ideally suited to your individual taste and recipe, whether you prefer your garlic sweet, creamy and mild, or spicy enough to bring tears to your eyes.

And yes, gourmet garlic is more expensive than regular garlic – but knowing all this, don’t you think it’s worth it?









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