06 July 2012

Garlic Harvest

 The following is a guest post from Brittany's friend Mariah, who came to Brittany Hollow Farm over the 4th of July with her fiancé Collin and were put to work harvesting garlic!

When I decided that my fiancé, Collin, and I would be spending 4th of July at Brittany Hollow Farm, I imagined a small town parade, perhaps a little street fair, a local pie eating contest, basically all of the things that scream small town America. What I didn’t think about was how farm work doesn’t stop for holidays. So when I asked Brittany what her family’s plans were for the 4th, I wasn’t expecting the answer to be “Well, we’ve got to pull the garlic out…”

As most of you probably know, garlic is only harvested once a summer. Brittany decided it was time to pull them out because about 1/3 of the leaves had turned brown. In a wet year, garlic bulbs can be pulled straight from the loose, wet soil, but, since it has not been a wet year, we had a little more work to do than that. We had to use a shovel or pitch fork to loosen the soil enough to be able to pull easily without breaking the stalk off and then losing the garlic bulb in the ground.

Nobody would have wanted to see the sweat-drenched pictures of us pulling the garlic, so we took a couple of staged shots later in the evening.  Collin is making it look easy with his flip-flops and beer in hand.

I took Brittany’s lead and found a pair of Crocs to wear down to the garlic field. This turned out to be a great decision because Crocs are not safe footwear to use for digging and pitch forking, so we left that harder task to Debbie and Collin, and we followed along after them, pulling up the garlic. With five of us working (Darryl was loading the garlic we pulled into the mule and up and to the barn), things went pretty quickly, even with the afternoon heat bearing down on us. My Montana blood isn’t used to this heat and humidity, so quite a few water and shade breaks were involved for me.

Once all the garlic was pulled, we put it into the barn to dry. Darryl explained how drying it in the sun can actually ‘cook’ the garlic, but the barn provides a cooler, slower drying climate perfect for garlic. I also learned that it is important to dry with the stalks on the bulb, so they help wick away moisture from the garlic. Without the stalk, the bulbs can mold. The barn smells so good right now!

Collin also got the chance to dig his first potatoes...he was a natural!  We both thought the boiled potatoes we dug were the best we had ever tasted.

After we were finished, we all treated ourselves to lunch and sweet tea. Collin ate his favorite snack, Ritz crackers with peanut butter and fresh diced garlic, using a few cloves from the field. It sounds gross, but I would recommend this snack to any garlic lovers out there. Tonight we plan on using the garlic to make a light summer pasta dish, with stuffed squash blossoms as an appetizer. Apparently Darryl thought Collin and I did an okay job with the garlic because he gave us some cash to go spend on beer at Crossroads Brewery, in Athens, a fun place to go visit for any beer lovers out there.

Yum!  Stuffed squash blossoms...I love farm life.

I’m not sure if we will be helping out with any other farm chores during our visit, but being a part of the Brittany Hollow Farm was pretty fun for day. I admire Brittany and her family for doing it every day because I’m not sure if I have the stamina to be a farmer, especially during a heat wave! So, when you see garlic at the market, be sure to thank Brittany for spending her holiday working to make sure that it was harvested at the perfect time.

Thank-you Mariah and Collin for coming all the way from MT for a visit, and for being such good sports about doing farm work in the heat!  Great post, Mariah!

As the old saying goes,
"The couple that spades (garlic) together, stays together."

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