What’s that smell? Allium sativum!

The 2011 garlic crop is going gangbusters and should be ready to harvest in late June. Meanwhile, the 2010 garlic crop – all 329 heads – is getting past its prime. Here’s what it looked like just out of the garden and ready for a few weeks of curing.

After it dried down a bit, we cut off the tops and roots and stored the heads in mesh bags in the pantry. We ended up with about 40lbs of processed heads of garlic, both hard and softneck. Softneck garlic is a favorite because it stores for a long time without going bad. But hardneck varieties (they grow a tough flower stalk or ‘neck’ from the center of the bulb) grow well in cooler climates and have a wider range of flavors that make them worth growing even though they need to be used sooner after harvest. The best of both worlds is to grow a few different types.

With a large part of last year’s garlic left in the pantry, it was time to act. After a little research, we decided to dehydrate most of it, though we’ll be pickling some of this year’s garlic. To prepare for drying, the heads were broken into cloves and blanched in boiling water for about 30 seconds. This loosened the skins for easy peeling without cooking away the beneficial compounds found in garlic.

Breaking the heads into cloves is also how garlic is prepared for planting in the fall. In fact, one way to save money, and develop a ‘native’ strain of garlic, is to save the very best heads to plant later in the year. We’re experimenting to discover what varieties we like best, and which grow well here. Once we settle on a few, we will probably start saving and planting our own instead of buying ‘seed’ stock each year.

Drying the garlic took a bit longer than expected. One issue was not cutting the smaller cloves in half. The intact skin kept too much moisture in, and they had to be cut anyway after most of the other garlic pieces were dried. Live and learn. What started out as maybe 15lbs of whole garlic ended up as nowhere near a pound of crispy dried aromatic chunks that fit perfectly in a 1/2 gallon jar.

Even though spring is having a hard time springing, the garden is getting underway. We also installed two new hives of Italian bees and did a quick hive check last week. Both queens are laying like crazy, and having drawn & partially filled combs from the two hives that didn’t make it are sure a boost to the new bees. Hopefully the headstart will counteract the chilly weather.

Katie is learning fast and becoming a major part of the family. She’s been getting a little help with schooling from Ally Veenbaas, and seems to enjoy trying new things. Today she got to try on most of her new harness and took it all in stride. It won’t be long before she’s out on the road, pulling her lovely Meadowbrook cart.

The weather has been mostly terrible recently. One nice day sandwiched between many soggy, windy, dark days. That’s when all 3 kitties pile up on the bed, all interfeline disputes put aside for the duration.

And finally, a bonus video of Katie getting used to the feel of her harness. We didn’t film the initial reaction to the crupper, running around the paddock like a crazy lady. She settled right down though and doesn’t seem to mind all the gear.

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