In the fall of 2008, we planted a few bulbs that Lisa bought from a farm down in Gilsum. It thrived. The results were delicious and lasted us about three weeks in the height of canning and pickling season. Every year, I’ve managed to hold on to twice as much to plant the next fall. (We’re not sure what happened to the people in Gilsum who grew it. Their shed is still there but never opened up this year, sadly.)
We bought 50 bulbils for $5 (the little mini bulbs that the scape turns into) over the net, and also ordered three bulbs each of Musik, Spanish Rocambole and Inchelium Red from Jung. With all of the above, I filled last year’s sweet potato bed. Two root crops in a row isn’t ideal, but it’s still our only extra deep raised bed.
We actually had enough that we tried using some as “scallions”. They were fantastic. It’s a whole different allium than anything we’ve had before. I love being married to a four star chef.
We still have a bag of scapes in the fridge. Supposedly they will keep for up to three months. I don’t anticipate finding out.
The bulbils did not act like cloves, but more like seedlings. Almost all came up, but many died in the spring and summer. All the bulbs were small, as expected. Many were a single (large) clove, others a couple of cloves and some the standard 6 or 8 cloves, each no bigger than the original bulbil. We’ll try a few and replant the rest in October.
The Spanish Rocambole and Inchelium Red just don’t like it here. Half of them couldn’t handle our 20(F) below winter, and half the remainder came in scarcely bigger than the bulbil plants. We’ve tried the Inchelium Red, and it rocks, but the yield is unacceptable. I’m expecting the Rocambole to be equally delicious. I already know the yield is equally unacceptable. They just don’t do -30C in Spain. Wusses.
Our carryover plants came through even better than last year. Yes, I saved the biggest bulbs. It worked. The Musik also did very well. Unsurprisingly, it is a North German variety, imported to the US via Canada. Looking at the plants, I guessed that the stuff from Gilsum was also Musik. As I dug them, and mixed the bulbs I noticed that half the Gilsum stuff was red, while none of the known Musik was. I’ll just have to advertise “big yummy garlic” and not mention the variety.
Quick garlic summary for our neighbors:
Garlic comes in ‘hardneck’ and ‘softneck’ varieties. The terms are self descriptive. Hardneck has a more complex flavor, prefers northern climates and keeps for 6 months or less. Softneck is what is in the supermarket, is happier in California, and keeps longer (9 months or so — the bulbs you get in May come from Chile.).
Our experience, and anecdotal reports, say that New England is great garlic country. We’ll never run Gilroy, California out of business. But it rocks for your own table, a CSA or for taking to a farmer’s market. We can’t sell it for 49 cents like the supermarket, but give the first one free and you’ll get the dollar it really costs.