I asked a friend of mine, “What is the very first think that comes to mind when you think of the month of October?” She answered exactly as I had thought she would: “Halloween!” Now, I didn’t tell her that it was a leading question to influence her answer to my next question: “What do you think of when I say the word garlic?” Of course, her thoughts went straight from Halloween to garlic repelling vampires. It appears that anyone, not just politicians, can use the power of psychological influence to make people think and act the way they want them to.
When I think of October, I think of garlic, because in Indiana we plant garlic in October. Accordingly, today was garlic planting day. In 2016, I harvested enough garlic for two or three families to use for a year. It was a nice, mild, white California garlic. I preserved some of it in jars, but the bulk of it is braided together in two braids hanging from my fireplace mantle. This year, I am planting seven different varieties, most of which are soft neck varieties.
Hardneck and softneck garlic varieties are different in a couple of basic ways. Hardneck garlic is aptly named for the long, hard stem (called a ‘scape’) which grows from the center of the garlic bulb and can be eaten on its own. It has a spicier, bolder taste than softneck varieties, as well as fewer, yet larger cloves in each bulb. The hardneck scapes are cut off about an inch above the garlic bulb before storing the garlic. Softneck varieties have a series of long leaf-like stems which can be braided together to hang many garlic bulbs for storage. They have a milder taste and a longer storage life (some varieties can be stored up to 10 months).
This year, I planted two hardneck and five softneck varieties. I chose varieties which are good for growing in areas of the country with cold winters. The hardnecks, Chesnok Red and German Red, are both streaked with red or purple colors, which should be beautiful to photograph, and will add a robust flavor to my canned soups and sauces. The softneck varieties I chose, Pioneer, California White, California Select, Extra Select, Inchelium Red, and Nootka Rose, will provide me with a wide range of heat and flavor for many of the freshly eaten dishes that I make, like tomato bruschetta, salsa and pesto, and will easily store until the garlic harvest of 2018.
So the countdown begins: 240-ish days to go until garlic harvest time! Don’t worry, though, because I saved a clove to ward off those darn vampires who come out on October 31st. Garlic is easy to grow and use, so happy garlic growing to any of you who indulge in garlic excellence.