Garlic Planting Season
September has been cool and wet in our neck of the woods of SWCT, much like the summer was. The first six days of October has proven to be both wet and cold; two inches of rain fell over the weekend and I woke to chilly 48 degrees. The marigolds don't seem to mind the frigid temperatures and they continue to brighten our garden with reds, oranges and yellows. Many people this time of year find themselves turning to chrysanthemums, but our marigolds have minimized our need to buy mums. The pink petunias as well have continued to thrive nicely into October. In New England this is the time of year (October/November) to plant garlic. We decided to experiment with a few different varieties this season, after learning that there is a whole world of garlic of varying tastes and spiciness to them that I had never heard of or seen. I thought garlic was garlic but just in the way you can't say if you've tasted one tomato, you've tasted them all; the same goes for garlic.
Allicin: Mother Nature's Insecticide
When I select seeds and starts for our gardens, I always look for varieties that are easy to grow in our zone (6), that will be prolific and delicious of course. Siberian garlic is an example of a wonderful cold weather prolific producer we planted this fall. It has a warm medium to strong flavor delicious in any dish. It is high in allicin content, the highest of any garlic. Allicin is an organosulfur compounds that enhances circulation; normal cholesterol levels; and boosts the immune system. Plus has a variety of antimicrobial properties. Garlic is natural defense system from insects and fungi; enzymatic-ally producing allicin when it's chushed. It is Mother Nature's insecticide. However, allicin is not found in all forms of garlic - it is primarily found in the raw state.
When roasted Siberian garlic deliciously caramelizes, its delicate mild flavor compliments without overwhelming. A perfect addition to stir-fries, dips, sauces, soups where you are looking to add a subtle hint of garlic. Originally from Europe and used in traditional European and Russian cooking, Siberian garlic made its way to Alaska in the 19th century. Legend says it was traded off the docks for fresh veggies, probably making its way across the Bering Strait. It's an easy to grow hard neck garlic in the maple purple stripe family. A medium-tall plant, it produces large bulbs and beautiful purple flowers making a lovely addition to any garden. Bogatyr is also in this family. This rich flavored garlic is extremely robust and great in Italian dishes. I look forward to having this in our sauces! Chesnok Red is one of the best baking garlic around; mouthwatering sweet when baked. Rounding out the garlic bed we also included Elephant, Music, California Early and Late Italian. All milder than the easier mentioned varieties but add just as much to the culinary cues of the kitchen.
When planting garlic cool temperatures are the best conditions for planting. Look for a sunny site, preferably in a raised bed rich with compost. Break bulbs into separate cloves, the plump ones are best for the garden - save the smaller ones for containers or to force chivelike foliage. Set and space cloves two to three inches apart in all directions. Along with the garlic, we planted other alliums like onions and shallots that like other bulbs do best when planted in the fall.
It's difficult to believe that despite the calendar and the fact that many parts of the country have been buried under snow; 6'+ in Buffalo a week before Thanksgiving - it's still fall. Autumn, that beautiful time of years where Mother Nature truly can put on a spectacular finale before closing the final curtain on the season. The winter solstice doesn't begin until December 21 - over two weeks away. We put a straw/hay blended mulch down on top of the bed that are seeded or perennials to protect from the expected harsh winter snows.
Just as the leaves were turning dazzling shades of orange, yellow and red, the trees and shrubs begin to shed their glory; there is a part of the garden that is just getting started. As I have discussed above, early fall is the perfect time for planting garlic bulbs, onion and shallot starts. They start to grow just a little in the ground before going dormant for the winter months. It's like they hit the pause button until the spring thaw warms the ground once more, kick starting their growth in to overdrive. Many vegetables benefit greatly from spending some time in the frosted ground - it tends to bring out the natural sugars and makes things like peas and carrots sweeter.
Today another walk through the garden I see in one raised bed that there is plenty of kale that is ready to enjoy. The arugula should be cut so we can make some pesto and the Golden Acre cabbage looks delicious. I check the progress under the stray/hay we put down as mulch to protect from the expected harsh winter. Underneath the yellow multiplier onions is nestled next to Italian late garlic with Artic butterhead lettuce on the other side. Music and Elephant garlic sit next to the Giants of Colamar carrots at the garden party. The exotic Sante shallots and French red shallots mix with California Early and Siberian garlic. Finishing the bed up with Bogatyr and Russian red garlic coupled with Russian Red torpedo and Walla Wallas onions.
Finally I walk through the gate of our Maine Kitchen Garden where under a cloche Marvel of Four Season lettuce and Paris Market carrots are growing. Under the glass bell cloches it's easy to see the leaves of the Winter Brown lettuce. We also seeded a number of overwintering carrot varieties like Meridia Hybrid and Giants of Colamar; a few varieties of greens such as Giant Winter spinach and Winterwunder looseleaf lettuce that we will be able to enjoy in early spring.
As the holiday catalogs continue to fill our mailboxes with cards and catalogs, the first of the seed catalogs have also started to come in sparking the beginning thoughts, dreams and discussions for next season. We wish all our readers and followers and very joyous holiday season and a bountiful New Year!