Sunday, June 26, 2011

Garlic, the squash saga, &c...

Hey there! It's been a while! That gumbo pretty much did me in from its awesomeness, but I'm baaaaack!

This post is a garden one. I hope to post a great chicken fricasee recipe tomorrow if I can squeak it in. But for now, lets hang out with the plants!

The inspiration for this post is this MASSIVE head of garlic I picked up the other day at Natural Food Pantry. It's some kind of French purple garlic (from France, no less), and once I set eyes upon it I knew it must be bought, used for cooking a little, and then planted!

Traditionally, garlic is harvested AND planted on the longest day of the year (or thereabouts, for both). I therefore figured I could plant this one before I ate the rest of it. The first job is to separate the head into cloves. Pick nice solid ones (i.e. un-smushed) that are still covered in paper (I don't know if you have to do this, but I figure the extra layer of protection can only help.)

Then head out in your garden and make a bunch of holes a few inches deep with your rake handle.

Pop the cloves in root side down.

Then cover them up and wait! By October, you should have little shoots poking out of the ground. The trick is remembering where they are. I can't advise you here because I always forget. I put mine in a place that will be over-run with squash soon, but that should be clear once the frosts of fall arrive. Prime time to go -- oh yeah! that's where I planted the garlic!

About a year from now they should look like this. (I know some people remove the curly flowering heads from the top of their garlic stalks, but I'm a devil-may-care kind of guy and just wait to see what happens -- I would also suck as a farmer for this very reason.) Once the tops die down you can dig them up and let them dry for a while before you stick them in your pantry for the winter. Incidentally, the French one I just planted is a soft-neck type -- i.e. crappy for storage -- so I expect I'll have to use it up in the weeks immediately after harvest rather than through the winter as I would with the hard neck types that are shown above. Could be worse though!

On the potimarron squash front (it's day 120 or so) the plants are starting to hit the exponential stage of growth.

Here you can see a shot of the flowers. Squashes have male and female flowers: the male ones (on the left) are on longish stalks (no comment) and the female ones (on the right with the yellow bottom) can be distinguished by the little baby squash shapes they have at the base (these are the ovaries that will develop into the fruit and seeds). Once some bees move pollen from the boy flowers to the girl flowers, we'll be off to the races!

I also decided to harvest a bunch of herbs today: thyme, oregano, and sage -- the main ones I use dried through the winter. They were flowering or on the verge of flowering, so I gave them a haircut to encourage more leaves. I'll wash them up and then take them to work tomorrow to dry on my desk. My office has a level of humidity equivalent to the Gobi Desert, so they dry pretty quick. If you find your herbs go all black before they dry, then they are in an environment that is too humid -- they are fermenting (oxidising) before they dry and basically turning into tea leaves. I've you're not sure, test a couple of stalks to see and go for a drier place if you need to. (I am not a big fan of microwaves or ovens for this job, so you'll have to look elsewhere for advice if you don't have a Gobi Desert office like me!)

Here's a shot of the seeds of my chervil. The winter crop has run to seed, but some of the spring crop is still going. I pull the seedy ones up by the roots and let them dry for seeding again in the fall -- these seeds don't last too long so you have to keep them in rotation. They sure are pretty though!

Finally a look at the lovage flower heads. The plant is too huge to fit in any photograph in its entirety (remember, you can never have not enough lovage!). I like to keep it around because it attracts these little wasps that help keep the nasties out of your garden. It also makes my garden look like a Dr. Seuss book.

Peace through biodiversity!! Take care folks -- pop in tomorrow (I hope!) for a cooooool recipe!

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