Well, it’s official—we have legitimately passed into the fall season. Yes, it happened on the calendar this past weekend (the autumnal equinox was September 22) but more importantly, it happened in my kitchen.
For the first time since way back in June, I turned on the oven. I roasted a pork shoulder, baked some sweet potatoes, whipped up some dinner rolls and while the oven was nice and hot, I threw in an apple pie for good measure. I don’t have air-conditioning in my house, so when the summer is hot, the oven is off, the grill is on and the baked goods are store-bought. With temperatures dipping into the 40’s and (gasp) 30’s recently, it was time to fire up the kitchen again.
That’s not to say that I haven’t been cooking—it’s just been different. Summer is all about what comes out of the garden: lots of fresh salads, grilled vegetables, berry and fruit desserts, and all kinds of different sandwiches and side dishes that utilizes whatever’s ripening at the time. However, regardless the time of the year, if I’m cooking something that falls into the “savory” category, more than likely it’ll have one common ingredient: GARLIC.
I love the stuff. If I’m cooking from a recipe that calls for it, I’ll usually double whatever it asks for. “That was too garlic-y for my taste,” is not likely something you will ever hear me say. I always need MORE.
So you can trust me when I tell you that you need to be growing garlic. It’s so easy to grow, easy to harvest, and easy to keep through the year. And it’s worth it. Fresh garlic is one of those things where you can really taste (and smell) the difference.
Believe it or not, you need to plant your garlic soon—like in two weeks—so it’s a good idea to start planning now. Planting garlic in October (usually the first or second week) will give you a harvest the following August. You can try using store-bought heads of garlic, however, sometimes store-bought is sprayed with a sprout inhibitor that can disrupt the growth process and hinder your success. The best place to get your garlic cloves is from a friend or a neighbor in your area who has grown it that year and is willing to share.
To prepare your bed, turn the soil about eight inches deep, allowing enough room to plant your garlic about six inches apart. You want to pick a very well-drained area that will get lots of sun—at least six hours a day.
Take the heads of garlic that you’ve got and break it apart into individual cloves. Plant the cloves, pointy side up, so that the tips are about two inches from the top of the soil when covered, approximately three inches deep. Again, plant the cloves about six inches apart.
Once you have your garlic in the ground, you want to add a protective layer of mulch or straw, about 6-8 inches thick, over the entire bed. This will help keep the soil warm and will add an extra layer of protection through the winter months.
Now, pour yourself a mug of hot apple cider, enjoy the fall, and bake something. Your garlic will grow through the winter and, before you know it, you’ll be harvesting it in August.
To really learn how to grow the best garlic in town, the Berkshire Botanical Garden is offering a “Growing Garlic” class, taught by garden guru Ron Kujawski, on October 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. You’ll learn about different varieties of garlic and even a little about other allium groups including shallots, leeks, and onions. It’s certain to inspire and inform! For more info, or to register, visit the website or call 413.298.3926.