Big bold bulbs await! The final push for big delicious garlic is now!

May. It’s tempting, after so many months of carefully managing a garlic crop through the travails of winter, to sit back and enjoy the fine weather. We’re almost done, right? Well, kind of. If we walk away and leave it be, we’ll still reap some benefit of a full year’s hard work. But if we just stay the course a bit longer…

In early May most varieties haven’t begun to divide into cloves yet, so snatching the random double for a green garlic treat will give its companion room to make a nice bulb. And the farmer has the makings of a fine meal; just add some asparagus, and morels if you’re lucky enough.

Next the hard-stem varieties will start to send up scapes. Snap them soon, for yet another culinary treat; chop and add to any dish, blend into pesto, or even make a batch of fermented garlic scape paste. Early removal of the scapes will let the plant direct its energy to the bulb, and bigger bulbs are what we’re after.

While all the new spring plantings call for our attention, it’s critical to not neglect the garlic. There’s no need for further fertilizing as the garlic has already made all its layers by now, but weeds need to be kept under control, and regular scheduled watering must be maintained if the weather is dry, especially if the crop isn’t mulched. This is the time garlic swells into bulbs, and adequate water will make great bulbs. If the crop dries out at this point it may decide the end is near and start drying down early, preparing to go dormant until the next growing season. We want our garlic to feel like life’s abundant, and to keep getting fatter until the day length says to stop. So keep the water coming and watch those bulbs size up. When there’s just two or three sets of green leaves left, that’s when it’s time to dry down, but not before.

If the skies over your farm or garden give too much rain, the challenge will be to keep weeds away and make sure the water can drain so the crop can air out and soak up the sunshine a bit between soaks. Wet mulch and dense weeds will hold in moisture and keep bulbs soggy, not a good thing. Hopefully you’ve planted in raised beds if your field is subject to wet spring weather, and you can bide your time without the chore of watering.

As the garlic is shining in all its May glory, or not… this is also a good time to compare varieties. Which looks best, which is big and healthy. Each farm, each climate, each soil will favor certain types of garlic over other. Take notes on how each looks, when they set scapes, when they start to dry down, which is most resistant to pests or diseases. Now’s the time to plan for next season, so observe, and prepare for the next step – harvest! More on that topic in June.


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From Organics to Fermented Food, Whistling Duck Farm Is a Southern Oregon Pioneer, Part 1 – Organic Gardening – MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Check out this nice blog post on Mother Earth News. It’s an article on us in John Vincent’s new book, Planting A Future. Part 2 is linked from the post too.

“Located in the heart of southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley, Whistling Duck Farm has built a legacy of organic farming innovation in this rugged and independent part of the the state, and now it’s growing a successful fermentation business.”

Source: From Organics to Fermented Food, Whistling Duck Farm Is a Southern Oregon Pioneer, Part 1 – Organic Gardening – MOTHER EARTH NEWS

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When Garlic Growing Meets Fermentation

June 20, 2014

The Solstice is tomorrow and garlic harvest is in full swing. We’ve lifted the Rocomboles and Turbans, bracing ourselves for the big Inchelium Red harvest. But the weeks leading up to harvest when you’re a garlic grower are filled with garlic scapes. those curly top-sets on hard stem garlic varieties. We’ve always snapped bushels full to sell at markets, enticing folks with delicious garlic flavor while we’re all waiting, waiting for the new crop to come on. Many recipes have evolved to utilize these seasonal treats, from garlic scape pesto and garlic scape soup, to adding chopped scapes to stir-fries and pasta dishes. I like to call them “easy garlic” because there’s no peeling involved. Just chop and use.

But now we’re fermentation junkies. When farmers become fermenters, they ferment just about everything, or at least give it a go. A few weeks ago when we had about 14 crates of garlic scapes, we took the advice of our neighbor and fer-mentor (ha!) Kirsten Shockey, co-author of the great new book Fermented Vegetables, soon to be released by Storey Press. She suggested fermented garlic scape paste. A couple of years ago we made an awesome garlic paste but never did it again as our worker was peeling garlic all day to come up with enough for a 2-gallon crock. So garlic scape paste sounded great! Easy! Rinse, chop, put through the food processor, salt and crock. A friend and I made 8 gallons worth in about 4 hours. It’s still in the “cave” but I’ve snitched a taste and it’s sweet and wonderful, just like regular fermented garlic paste. All the better for being quick, using something we typically throw away (there’s only so many garlic scapes we can sell in our markets), and is more cool and exotic and seasonal than plain ol’ garlic. In a couple of weeks we’ll jar it up and get it on the shelf. Just in time for the grand opening of our new on-farm store!


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The 2012 Garlic Season is on its way!

This Memorial Day weekend our website shopping cart will “Go Live” for 2012 Seed Garlic sales – another season launches!

The weather here in Southern Oregon is still very Spring-like, not appearing to head to Summer any time soon, but the garlic doesn’t seem to mind. It’s sizing up nicely, starting to divide into cloves and fatten up. We’re anticipating harvest starting just after the 4th of July.

We’ve been pulling green garlic from accidental double-plants in the Inchelium Red, but they’ve reached the point of “cloving”, so we’re starting green garlic harvests from the Winter-planted varieties. They’re a bit behind in their progress so we can get a couple more weeks of green garlic sales from them. A few years ago we planted some extra cloves in the Winter and discovered we could extend our season for green garlic this way. We’re always keen to find ways to extend our fresh produce harvests!

We’ve also begun harvesting scapes for market sales. I refer to the scape and green garlic time as “lazy garlic season” since they can be chopped and enjoyed with no peeling. And the flavor is so rich and fresh after the last of the storage garlic is gone.

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So, so many alliums – Fall must be coming. (Yay!)

The shift in seasons is certainly upon us.  One week, 100º, the next week in the 70’s. Now it’s back to 90-ish. But no matter the temperatures, early Friday morning, Fall is here. We farmers start anticipating “Frost Parties”, when we’ll race to finish the last cold-sensitive crop harvests and from then on, start having another cup of tea in the mornings while we wait for it to warm up. Aaahhhh.

Our Grower’s Market booth and Farmstore are brimming over with Harvest. We’ve gone from a long summer of explaining the virtues and uses of all the strange greens we grew to trying to help sort out the big world of alliums. We kind of went over the top with allium diversity this year, adding back varieties we haven’t grown since our early years of farming. (We were obviously far ahead of our time, way back then in the early ’90’s.) So now we’re trying to deal with them all. What follows is a brief list of the alliums we grew this year, and their basic uses. If you’d like to add your insights, recipes, nutrient information, please do so in the comments. Alliums are the cornerstone for so many savory meals in the cool season, so experiment, try something new, share your ideas.

Bunch onions – whites and reds. These are mild and often used raw in salsas and salads, but also added to stir-fries and Asian soups. Not tolerant of multiple hard frosts, so their harvest will be done by mid-Fall. Get them while you can!

Sweet Onions – whites, yellows. These are great for fresh dishes – salsas, sandwiches, salads.  They’re not as pungent, are more mild, though they’ll still make you cry when chopping! They don’t store as well as the dry, hard storage types so enjoy them within a couple months of harvest.

Storage Onions – reds, yellows. These are drier and have higher levels of sulfur compounds, which makes them more pungent.  They also have a higher sugar content than sweet onions and will be more flavorful when cooked, which tames the spicy bite. The dryness and higher sulfur and sugars makes them store well, and when kept in an open container or bag in a cool dry place they should keep several months. Pull out any that start sprouting and enjoy first.

Cippolini Onions – reds and yellows.  These disc-shaped onions are a sweet treat. They’re best for roasting and baking whole, and will caramelize wonderfully. They can be difficult to peel when small-sized, but dropping in boiling water for a few moments and draining will help the skins pop off easier. Add to your favorite “roasted roots” dish or stew. They’re also a seasonal treat since they aren’t great keepers either.

Shallots – reds and yellows.  While these may look like an onion, they’re actually in their own allium family, along with so-called multiplier onions. Shallots divide like a garlic rather than form a single round bulb, with each segment crescent-shaped. Their flavor is sweet and mild, with a hint of garlic. Shallots are high in sugars, but primarily glucose and can be enjoyed by fructose-intolerant folks that often cannot tolerate onions. They are also higher in protein and vitamin C than onions. They are called out specifically in many recipes for their unique, subtle flavor.

Leeks – another onion cousin, mildly sweet and versatile, in the same family as elephant garlic and ramps. Leeks are often used in soups and stocks, but are also a fine addition to roasted vegetables, sautés and stirfries. To clean easily, slice lengthwise and rinse under running water to remove any dirt between the layers. Typically the white and pale green parts are used; the dark green sections can be bitter. They’ll hold in the field through the winter until they go to seed in the Spring.

Garlic – wow, we grew many varieties this season, continuing to expand and improve our stock for seed offerings for our fellow farmers and gardeners. Once we’ve finished sorting out all the planting stock we’ll bring along some Rocomboles, Porcelains, Stripes and Asiatics for your culinary adventures. When we’re ready to have them at our Market booths and Farmstore we’ll dive into their individual attributes.  In the meantime our Inchelium Red is available, a big-cloved, easy-peel flavorful variety that seems to work for just about everything. A favorite amongst our chefs and customers for years!

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