Monday, September 14, 2015

Garlic :: Field to Table to Field

Read all the way down for information on the beneficial qualities of garlic and some prep tips.

Garlic has come full circle this season. The excitement of garlic begins in mid-late October, here in the North county. This is when our garlic is planted. With time enough to put down roots (to protect against frost heaving), but not sprout.

Garlic laid out for fall planting.
Around the end of July, to beginning of August, we harvest the entire garlic crop, then hang it to cure. This sets the skins and preserves the storage quality of the bulbs. It took a lot longer to cure this year, as it was so humid. We ended up adding a third fan in the packing shed to help with the drying and air circulation.

Garlic hung for curing in the packing shed.
From there the garlic needs sorting. Bulbs are sorted out for our seed stock, about 25-30% of the crop. By growing our own seed we can improve our product over time and the garlic becomes more and more adapted to our growing site. The remainder of the bulbs are cleaned for use in CSA boxes and sales at market.

It takes a little while to do this process, but its a easy job at the end of the day, or during rainy weather. When cleaning garlic, the stalks are trimmed down and the outer dirty wrapper taken off. Below sorted and trimmed garlic being cleaned.

Cleaning garlic.
Cleaned garlic.
When garlic is cured garlic is set aside to go into CSA boxes every week for the rest of the season. The remainder of the garlic is sold to Farm Share members and brought to the farmers' market (Saturdays, New Ulm). We also stick a basket of garlic in our pantry for the winter and use it frequently, in healthy quantities. Properly stored garlic lasts for months, alongside our onions, potatoes and winter squash.

In another month we will be preparing our seed garlic for planting and starting the process all over again. 

Seed garlic, ready for planting.

Include Garlic in Your Regular Diet

Make sure to use this healthful veggie in your regular cooking! Not only does it taste fabulous, but it protects your immune system through its anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Garlic lowers bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol; helps lower high blood pressure; prevents dangerous blood clots; as been shown to limit cancer growth.

Preparing Garlic

Chopping and crushing preparation techniques stimulate the enzymatic process that converts the phytonutrient alliin into allicin, a compound with many health benefits. In order to allow for maximal allicin production, wait 10 minutes before eating/cooking the garlic. Many of garlic's health benefits (including its anti-cancer properties) are preserved if the whole cloves are crushed and allowed to sit for 10 minutes prior to cooking. Observe this 10-minute wait before adding any high acid ingredients to the garlic (ex. lemon juice). Research has shown that microwaving or boiling garlic uncrushed or whole will deactivate its enzymes.

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