Many heirloom/homestead plant varieties have lower crop yields than modern industrial agriculture tolerates. But many also demonstrate resistance to pests and can produce reliable crops in variable climates. Garlic plants will adapt to local growing conditions within a few generations and become a distinct variety. Part of our mission at Seven Trees is to experiment with fruit and vegetables that thrive in our variable maritime/foothills environment, saving seed until we are consistently reproducing quality crops that are adapted to our particular microclimate.
Within the past 100 years, many people (some of them immigrants with unique seed stock) still nurtured unique strains of food plants. Smart people are now working to preserve those varieties and develop new ones. Seed Savers Exchange is a wonderful resource for hard-to-find local seed stock. The price of membership gets you a phone-book-sized directory of small farms and individuals that are working to preserve our small-farming heritage. You can buy, sell or trade all kinds of seeds & starts and do your part to preserve and protect our food diversity.
Modern farming systems focus on uniformity for ease of cultivating, harvesting and processing. But this comes at a cost in chemical inputs and soil depletion, not to mention loss of potential disease and pest immunity. The main benefit of industrial farming has been, pure and simple, cheap fodder. Quantity over quality. Now that the climate is acting up and fuel prices are steadily rising, even mass-produced food costs are rising, negating what benefits there might have been from this unnatural way of growing food. Many communities are turning to local diversified farmers for quality food, and our neck of the woods, Bellingham/Whatcom WA is in the forefront of this resurgence of domestic farming – Life in a Local Living Economy
It’s not too late to take part in preserving our food heritage. Many veggies grow well as the season turns from summer to fall to winter, but the seeds need to be started now. Here’s a planting chart for the PNW to inspire you. Check out the seed rack or plant starts at your local co-op or nursery and try a crop of carrots or spinach or lettuce. Garlic (buy interesting bulbs from the grocery store to plant) grows best when planted in October for harvest in July.
We’re about ready to harvest our 2011 garlic crop, and have found some interesting recipes using garlic scapes. We’ll share the results in the next blog post 🙂