Enon Valley Garlic was started by Ron and Rosemary Stidmon in 1994. Refugees from Mid-Town Manhattan, they decided that the "Green Acres" model first portrayed by Oliver and Lisa Douglas was worth a try. 9/11 made a lasting impression on them and led to a reconsideration of their priorities. Enon Valley Garlic is the result of that reconsideration...
A dozen or so years ago I began to lament the demise of the small family farm in America. Demographic, economic, social and governmental changes I felt were making the small family farm, once the foundation of our nation, a dying model. Equally important, I recognized that if we lost a generation of small farmers, it may be impossible to resurrect for literally hundreds of years. Demographically families were not large enough to provide the low cost labor and few children were interested in remaining ‘down on the farm’. Economically, mechanization, often required due to the demographics, required larger investments in tractors, planters, harvesters, etc. Amortization of this equipment required a larger and reliable income stream. Social changes including big box stores, fast food restaurants and the move to more mass produced processed foods diminished demand for local agricultural products. Our government has continually focused on large-scale agriculture and added layer upon layer of regulations which while well intended, amount to a significant overhead to small scale agriculture.
Recognizing that I couldn’t change I decided to try to create a sustainable farm based on a different model than those I had seen. I came up with something that shared attributes with traditional CSAs as well as golf or airport communities. The idea was to have a farm that produced enough to basically feed the residents and provided enough surplus income to make the operation break even. I saw this as a possible alternative to selling family farms that aged farmers didn't have the resources to continue farming as well as an opportunity for non-farmers to become intimately connected to their food. It seemed to me there were 2 distinct groups that each had what the other needed. Elderly farmers have land, equipment and knowhow and city dwellers (for the lack of a better term) have money, and interest in the outdoors, a desire for exercise. Creating communities based on a central farm seemed like an idea whose time had come, but I needed a proof of concept before I could roll this idea out to a larger audience.
The Garlic Family Tree
There are over 600 cultivated sub-varieties of garlic in the world, but most derive from about a dozen unique strains. They differ in size, color, shape, taste, number of cloves per bulb, pungency and storability, and are the result of centuries of cultivation in different micro climates. Most Americans aren't aware of this diversity since they seldom see more than one kind in the local supermarket.
Botanists classify all true garlics under the species Allium Sativum. There are two subspecies; Ophioscorodon (Ophios), or hard-necked garlics and Sativum , or soft-necked garlics.
Today garlics are generally grouped into the following categories: Five hardneck varieties: Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe, and Rocambole; three varieties of Weakly bolting hadnecks that can grow as softnecks: Creole, Asiatic and Turban and two softneck groups: Artichoke and Silverskin.
How Did All These Garlics Get Here?
A few of the kinds of garlic now in America came in with Polish, German and Italian immigrants over the centuries, but most of them came in all at once in 1989. The USDA had been asking the Soviets for permission to go to the Caucasus region to collect garlics but permission had always been refused because there were many missile bases and their spaceport in the area. Finally, as the Soviet Union was disintegrating in 1989, they suddenly allowed us to collect the garlics. Traveling along the old silk route under armed guard they bought garlic from local markets and named them after the town or village where they were purchased.
Over the last 20 years more growers have adopted these cultivars making them more available to the general public. In a few years, these gourmet garlics will be more widely grown and the price will eventually come down somewhat, but not as long as all growers are selling out each year. A word of caution should be added that last year there was a widespread infection of garlic crops in the Northeast. An insedious nematode infection has had a devastating impact on many garlic growers, so large is the problem that the second largest garlic festival in Saugerties, NY will not allow any seed garlic to be sold there this year in an attempt to prevent the spread of this problem.
Garlic is grown for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Garlic was an important natural antibiotic as far back at ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. More recently garlic has been shown to be effective against a wide variety of ailments from high blood pressure and cholesterol to a variety of cancers. Gastronomes, always in search of exciting new tastes have discovered the wide range of tastes and textures garlic can impart to their creations. There are numerous components to garlic taste, only three are routinely quantified: flavor (or garlickiness), pungency (the degree of hotness when eaten raw) and residual or aftertaste. I usually enjoy a milder garlic for eating raw and stronger garlics for cooking or for using as medicine.
The taste of any given garlic changes almost continually. Any garlic is usually milder soon after it is pulled from the ground than it will be after a few months of storage as the chemistry within the garlic evolves during the year. Once pulled from the ground, garlic slowly dehydrates in a natural drying down process that takes months and as it loses its moisture it slowly shrinks in size and the flavor begins to condense and continues to intensify as long as it is stored at room temperature. If at any point during this process you slice and dry it, it will retain whatever flavor it had at that point and will not change any more.
Also, growing conditions directly affect taste. While each cultivar has its normal flavor, that is, what it tastes like in a normal year, each one varies from year to year based on that years growing conditions. Adverse weather can make normally mild varieties hot and usually hot garlics become mild - but the next year they return to normal. Our varietal description will try to describe the current crop's taste as accurately as possible since we test taste random samples of each cultivar.
Elephant garlic is so mild you can take a whole bulb of it and slice the cloves into quarter inch thick steaks, sauté them in butter or olive oil and serve them as a vegetable.
The hard-neck garlics tend to be more colorful and have fewer, but larger, cloves per bulb than the softnecks. Soft-necks generally have about twice as many cloves per bulb as the hard-necks. The Silverskins (soft-necks) tend to be the longest storing garlics with Porcelains (hardnecks) the second-longest storing and are usually hot and strong in flavor-though not always. The Asiatics (hard-necks) tend to be the shortest storing kinds with Rocamboles (another hardneck) next and Rocamboles and seem to be unsuited to growing well in the southern climates, unless grown at higher altitudes. The other main varieties all fall in between and grow well in our soil and produce generally superior garlics as long as we get decent rain and reasonable temperatures.
GARLIC – Which Varieties to Plant
When selecting a garlic variety to grow, consider;
Where you will grow it
How you are going to use it
Do you want to store it for 6 or more months
Do you like hot, mild or pungent garlic
Varieties will vary in a number of characteristics, maturation date (early or late), Color ( pure white, red or purple), Flavor, Size of bulb and Number of cloves per bulb.
For growers From Virginia and South, Soft-Neck garlics ( Allium Sativum Sativum) are ofter preferred. While often milder in flavor than Hard-Neck garlics, they grow will in warmer climates and will normally store far better as well. These garlics will rarely form s flower stalk and will mature a couple weeks earlier than Hard-Neck varieties. They are ideal for braiding as the stalk remains flexible and eventually dries to an attractive reed like weave. Many varieties of Soft-Neck garlics will grow well in Northern Climates (Silver Rose, Inchillium Red and Tochliavri) but it’s often a matter of trial and error if you try to grow them in Zone 3 or less.
For growers above Virginai. Hard-Neck garlics may be your preferred choice ( except for garlic you want to store for 6 or more months). Hard-Neck varieties are considered to have the boldest flavor and more distinctive character.
Allium sativum sativum
This is the variety found in most supermarkets, because it has the longest shelf life and ships well. There are usually two concentric rings of cloves in one bulb; cloves in the inner ring may be very small and hard to peel but fit well into a garlic press. Cloves re numerous (10 to 20) compared with those of stiff-neck garlic. Most northern growers say the flavor is mild (i.e. deficient). It doesn’t tolerate old well (it’s usually listed for southern gardens), but some varieties have been adapted by selection to colder regions.
This subspecies rarely forms a flower stalk. It’s excellent for braiding because the stems are soft and there is no need to work to make them pliable, as with hard-neck garlic (see chapter 6).
HARD-NECK OR STIFF-NECK GARLIC
Allium sativum ophioscorodon
This is also called ophio garlic (short for the subspecies name) or top-set garlic. Hare-neck garlic sends up a flower stalk that makes a tight loop in some varieties and then forms a capsule at the top holding tiny bulbils. Each bulb has four to ten cloves growing in a single ring around a woody stem. The little flower clusters don’t set viable seeds, but the bulbils, about the size of a grain of wheat, can be saved and planted. They take three years in the ground before they ate big enough to be dug for home use.
Hard-neck garlic is native to south-central Asia. It’s usually recommended for zones 3 to 8. Bulbs can be stored for three to six months, making this variety less durable than soft-neck garlic.
Medicinal benefits have generally been attributed to hard-neck rather than soft-neck garlic. Many growers believe that the soft-neck types developed from hard-neck species that were selected because of the lack of a flower stem, better keeping quality, ease of growing, and greater productivity per acre.
Garlic taste is rated on three dimensions:
1. Flavor: the degree of garlicky taste when eaten raw
2. Heat or piquancy: how hot it is on your tongue when eaten raw
3. Aftertaste: how long the flavor lasts
Most taste testers agree that ‘Rocambole’ garlic, a hard-neck variety, has the best flavor. However, because this type is a short keeper, you generally have just three to six months to injoy it, and six months applies only to the highest-quality bulbs stored under optimal conditions. Ophio garlic in general may have the best flavor because it is more closely related to wild garlic than the soft-neck subspecies are.
When garlic is cooked, the heat dissipates, and only the flavor remains. That is why Julia Child’s startling chicken recipe that calls for 40 cloves of garlic is so delicious -- it’s pure, concentrated flavor with the sting removed. When garlic is grown, all three taste characteristics vary depending on the water, sun, temperature, and soil. When garlic is stored, the taste also changes. It is mildest when first picked, then gets stronger. Old garlic is dry and almost flavorless and may become rancid.
When selecting a variety, look for maturation date (early or late), color if important to you (some are pure white, and some have a reddish or purple cast), flavor, size of the bulbs, and number of cloves produced. Size is a consideration if you want to bake whole heads, then pull off the cloves. Conversely, if you use your garlic press frequently, you may want smaller cloves tht will fit without peeling or cutting. Some cultivars are listed as easy peeling, but note that the skins that make them easy to peel have an adverse effect on keeping quality; they tend to dry out more quickly.
A.s. ophioscorodon “Rocambole”: One of the most popular hard-necks for northern climes (down to Virginia), with some adapted to warmer areas. Requires a cold winter. Sometimes called “serpent garlic” because of the coiling shape of the flower scape, or stem. Often has purple stripes on the wrapper, six to eight cloves. Delicious flavor, but stores only three to six months.
A.s. ophio “Porcelain”: Big, fat bulbs with thick wrappers; four to eight cloves per bulb. Handsome hard-neck garlic for display.
“Silverskin”: Pure white soft-neck variety, typically found in supermarkets. It is an excellent keeper (up to a year) with small cloves and pliable stems, making it useful for braiding.
“Artichoke”: Soft-neck type that is white tinged with purple; usually easy to grow. Has 8 to 40 cloves, with many smallish ones. For cooks who want only a hint of garlic, one of these small cloves might be enough. Keeps six to nine months. Named artichoke because the cloves grow in as many as four concentric rings, vaguely resembling an artichoke.
Enon Valley Garlic - Guide to Growing Garlic
We really hope you enjoy eating our garlic and hope you decide to also grow it for yourself. It can be a life=long experience since the garlic you bought this year can be with you and your family and friends for years and even generations. Garlic (Allium sativum var.) has been cultivated for thousands of years for both culinary and medicinal purposes. A member of the allium family which includes onions, leeks and shallots, garlic is a true underground bulb that replicates through bubblier division, with varieties that can be grown throughout the nation, and in most parts of the world. Each garlic plant has a single head that contains between 4 and 20 cloves. Each clove will produce a genetically identical bulb (with 4 to 20 cloves) when planted and properly tended. While it is possible to use seeds for reproduction, that is a multi-year process that is probably best left to experts or the very young.
While there are 2 types and 10 distinct groups of garlic, there are hundreds of varieties including:
· Softneck (Sativums) varieties: Broadly speaking softnecks are the most common group of garlic most people know about. This is what you will normally find in any supermarket. They are amenable to mass production and more than 80% of the garlic sold in America is softneck. Unfortunately the vast majority of that comes from China where mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic are habitually present in the soil as well as the garlic. Softneck varieties strictly speaking do not produce a flower stalk – instead, all their energy goes toward growing a large bulb. They tend to do better in warmer climates, although there are cold-tolerant varieties, and they generally store longer than hardnecks. There are approximately a two dozen named softneck varieties. I should add that the ‘garlic world’ is in the process of re-naming hardnecks to “weakly bolting” garlic because under the right conditions, it appears all garlics, including ‘softnecks’ will produce a flower stalk (a process referred to as bolting”.
· Hardneck (Ophio) varieties: Considered the closest cousin to wild garlic, hardneck varieties always produce a flower stalk. Some varieties don’t store well and most are better suited to cold climates. There are hundreds of named hardneck varieties and they differ from each other in flavor, texture, number and size of cloves, shelf life, pungency and heat (which is further delineated by intensity, duration and location). Individual varieties also vary significantly due to their growing climate (both zone-wise and annual weather) as well as the micro-nutrient composition of their growing medium. The best way to choose a variety to grow is to plant several varieties and see how they do in your location. Don't hesitate to email us and ask. We want you to be happy with your garlic and are committed to your success. We are in zone 5 and all our varieties should grow well in zones 2-6. If you are in a warmer area, we suggest you buy your seed from a local grower as you will probably be happier with your crop. Remember growing garlic should be a long=term venture. Once you have good seed, you should have it for as long as you want. If you take care of your garlic, it will take care of you.
When to plant
The ideal time to plant garlic is in the fall, so it can experience the cold of winter and be ready to grow vigorously during the long days of June. We recommend planting no earlier than Columbus day (early October) nor later than mid November, ideally it should be planted about a week or two after after the first killing frost. If the winter is expected to be mild or warm, or if there is an extended Indian summer, this date should be pushed back. NEVER PLANT IN WET SOIL, and remember it is normally better to postpone planting rather than moving your planting date forward. The reason we plant in the fall is to allow the garlic time to establish a root system before the ground becomes hard frozen down where the cloves will reside. Don't worry if you see small sprouts emerging in early winter; your garlic will survive. Most hardnecks will tolerate at least 2 early killing freezes; it’s the 3rd that should raise concern. Once winter hits, you won't see much happening till spring. After the garlic is fully emerged, it will focus on bulb development. We find that mulching allows you to plant a bit earlier or later because it moderates soil temperatures and moisture and protects tender sprouts. That said, we also have learned that mulch should be removed from rows after the last killing frost to let the plant breathe, reduce moisture that can encourage fungus and reduce the occurrence of ingrown stalks.
THE 3 MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENTS TO GREAT GARLIC.
1. Great Drainage (at least very good)
2. Full Sun
3. Great stock (we take care of that)
While this will vary based on your location, the traditional garlic grower’s calendar for the mid-Atlantic area is:
1. Plant in mid October to mid November.
2. Start cutting (or pulling) flowers (scapes) late May to early June.
3. Begin harvesting early-mid July. When most, but not all the leaves have turned brown, your garlic will be ready to harvest. This may be anytime from early July till mid August depending on the weather and your specific location (Planting date seems to be somewhat irrelevant as to the harvest date). Don’t harvest when the ground in overly wet, but don’t delay if you see your garlic browning or the bulbs opening.
How to plant
Step 1: Garlic is most easily grown from cloves, rather than seed. Buy your garlic bulbs from Enon Valley Garlic or another reliable source and don’t use garlic from the grocery store as they are often treated with growth inhibitors to prevent sprouting. (They are also very boring even when grown in your garden).
Step 2: Break each head of garlic into separate cloves. Use the larger ones for planting and the smaller ones for eating. You should not separate your cloves too early as they will dry out faster when you remove the outer wrappers. A couple weeks are no problem as long as you have them stored in a cool, well-ventilated location.
Step 3: Locate your garlic patch where it will receive full sun. It’s also important to have well-draining, nutrient-rich soil. Compost is a great soil conditioner and will help both with drainage and organic matter. For best results, the soil pH should be between six and seven.
Step 4: Cover each clove with 1-2 inches of soil ( warmer climates - less, colder climates - a bit more). YES, there is a top and bottom. The pointed end is up and the broader end is down. Spacing can be as close as 3 inches (small bulbs) and as wide as 5 inches (maybe 6-7 for Elephant). You should adjust the distance based on the size of the bulbs you are planting. Garlic root systems do not feed beyond about 1 inch outside the space occupied by the fully grown bulb, so they can be planted fairly close together relative to many other plants, but the heads should never be so close that they would touch each other when fully developed.
Step 5: Cover the cloves with soil followed by 2”- 4” of mulch to prevent extremes or rapid changes in temperature and moisture, and as a barrier to weeds. The better your drainage the deeper you can mulch. Less than optimal drainage should not be mulched more than 2-3 inches. Try to avoid large leaves or leaves from unknown sources, as they my have come from diseased trees.
Step 6: Expect to see sprouts in March or April. Now is the time to remove your mulch as it has done its job of insulating your cloves. The mulch, regardless of type, can be used to keep weeds down around the sides of your plants or between rows. Garlic leaves are long and flowing, and while they aren’t showy, they blend in nicely in a flower or herb garden.
Taking care of your garlic
· Mulch: To reduce weeds and insulate your garlic during winter.
· Weed: Keep plants weeded as some garlic don’t like competition and harvesting becomes more difficult.
· Water: Keep garlic from drying out until the last few weeks before harvest, particularly between May and late June when bulbs are growing rapidly.
· Feed: You can fertilize (side dress) from March to early June.
(10 - 10 - 10). Organic foliar feeding or side dressing is also helpful.
· Flowers: (hard neck only) Remove flower stalks (scapes) to eat and promote larger bulbs. While some growers say bulbs store better if you wait until the scape becomes woody, most growers cut (or pull) them off when they finish their first curl. They are much more tender and tasty then too!
Harvesting your garlic
Harvest should start about the 4th of July and could extend into early August, depending on the weather. Stop watering about two weeks before harvest and avoid harvesting when the soil is still wet. When to stop watering and harvest is a skill that grows with practice and experience and will vary by type. You can always dig one up and see if it's done.
Step 1: As the bulb matures, the leaves will begin to turn brown. When about 2/3 of the leaves are brown, carefully scrape back the soil to inspect a few cloves. You want good-sized bulbs with strong wrappers. Each bulb should have well defined cloves, not a single onion-like structure. You can also cut one open to see if the bulbs fill out the skins nicely. If your bulbs are starting to split open, you’re almost too late and should harvest immediately. We have found that softneck varieties and rocamboles ripen faster than other hardnecks but that is not always true???.
Step 2: Using a fork, carefully loosen the soil around the garlic bulbs. Then lift them out by hand, gently brushing off excess soil. Be careful not to break the skins or bruise the bulbs. Leave the roots and stems attached.
Step 3: Tie in bundles of 10-12 bulbs, and hang them in a well-ventilated, shady room for several weeks or simply arrange single layers on a well ventilated surface.
Step 4: IMPORTANT: You want to continuously improve your crop, so set aside your largest heads now. Just as we don't sell our best heads, you too should save your best bulbs for next year's crop. Doing otherwise will result in a steady diminution in your harvest. There's no need to clean the bulbs you will be planting, nor those you will be eating until they are to be used. They will be best preserved by doing no more than removing the dirt and trimming back a bit. After curing (drying) they should be stored in a cool, dark place with 30%-60% humidity till it’s time to plant or eat. (NOT A REFRIGERATOR)
Step 5: After they’ve dried, you can cut the stems down to 1-3 inches and trim the roots, but don't start removing wrappers (papery skins) till you need to.
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