Monday, October 3, 2011

Head Of Garlic

I've reengaged the boy who hoarded green acorns in a pail. I've become Gollum, caressing his precious. It is
a sickness.

This coming weekend I will be traveling four hours north to the fields of a generous property owner who has agreed to host my garlic several miles south of Albany. Many questions remain. Should I be doing this? How will it work? Will they do well? What about next year? If all those questions are answered positively, I will have garlic for sale in limited quantities late next summer into fall. In the year after, should this madness continue, I will have a real crop to offer you.

This head of garlic is a Turban variety, a cultivar named Tuscan. I have 7 varieties of garlic (out of a possible 9) to plant this autumn, with a total of 18 cultivars. I have selected one of each variety as my main crop. My goal is to grow a good set of seed garlic from this initial investment.

I've learned a lot about buying garlic over the last three months, and have made some costly errors along the way. The price for seed garlic ranges widely, with certified organic, uncertified organic, and conventional practice the major influence over price. Most seed garlic farmers are unconventional growers whether they are certified or not because hardneck garlic demands a hands-on approach to growing. There is a wide range of quality out there, generally showing up in the size of each head. Seed garlic should be large, everything else is table garlic. You won't know if you are getting seed quality garlic unless they tell you outright (which they often do), but the price is usually instructive. That said, I paid high prices for some table garlic and I paid table prices for some seed quality garlic.

At first I thought that seed quality garlic was determined by the grower's development of certified disease free stock (there is a handful of very damaging diseases out there), but in the end very few to none actually mention this in their sales materials. What seed stock comes down to is head size, generally anything over 2 inches across. Prices are by the pound, averaging about 19 dollars, but  the quantity you get depends largely on the variety and size of each head. There may be as few as 5 to as many as 13 heads in each pound. Furthermore, some varieties produce high clove counts and some only four or five. Good seed garlic should give you many big cloves to plant.

If I cannot plant all my garlic in the space I now have, I may offer some this November to anyone who wants to try their hand at growing. In our area, November is a good time to plant. I'll keep you posted.


  1. How great that you found your space in the sun for all that garlic. I'm sure you wil enjoy this journey you are embarking on. Wishing you much success and joy.

  2. Watching closely--got to get garlic going this year.

  3. Oh I hesitate to say it... But I'm sooo jealous! I wanted to plant bunches and bunches of garlic and shallots... But... Due to limited space settled for a few shallots *sigh* good luck and may they grow well :D


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