On “enough”

P1000024You know you’ve had a successful harvest if you still have some of last year’s produce in storage when the new stuff needs to be pulled.  I still have about a pound, maybe more, of garlic from 2008 so I did the head-scratching routine of “was I stingy with garlic this last year?”  I answered that in the negative; we had our fair courses of garlic soup, and enough homemade aioli to keep any vampire far away.  There were also plenty of heads to replant.

“Enough,” or even “adequate,” are tough nuts to crack when you’re growing your own.  It will either be a while before you hit that goal, or you’ll overshoot it and will feel pangs of guilt every time you open the freezer and see all those bags of broccoli, broccoli your family picks at if you serve it to them.  There is a happy medium in there, one in which you don’t feel like the food is overly precious or overly expendable.  And it will take you a year or two of doing this before you discover that sweet spot.

P1000248All cleaned up and ready for eating

But back to the garlic.  It was another good year for garlic, a crop I discovered does best when grown in the greenhouse, last hardneck batches sown on New Year’s Day.  It’s an indispensable kitchen item in this house; it, and parsley, populate every supper dish, or near enough.  I am thankful for a good harvest.

(And yes, some of it will be available in the seed trade.)

14 responses to “On “enough”

  1. Yum, oh yum. I’m planning on a big sowing this year, fingers crossed!
    Yours looks lovely!

  2. Looks beautiful. I planted mine back in November & will be harvesting soon. I have no idea if I planted “enough”. I’m thinking no, as I use about a head a week and I only planted a 4′ x 5′ square… enough to use, but probably not enough to replant for next year. Who doesn’t want to try new varieties each year, anyway?

    Every year is a learning experience for “next year”, which will of course, be perfect! 😀

  3. Yea for garlic in the seed trade!

    This past year, I did “just one more” batch of salsa and am happy to report that there are only 5 pints left and that should see us through to fresh salsa season. It was just the right balance of not feeling like it was way to precious this year. Canned tomatoes and applesauce we ran out of too early. Each year I’m getting closer to understanding our year round needs. Keeping at least some notes really helps. Your garlic looks beautiful!

  4. Your garlic looks marvellous. Mine is still in the ground, growing but oh so slowly…..winter! I have planted a lot of it, so that I can save some for replanting and then use it liberally in cooking.

    I know that feeling about opening the cupboard/freezer and seeing last year’s preserved food. In my case, it’s marmalade. I still have jars of it from last year and will need to make some more soon from this year’s oranges. Sigh! I’ve given jars and jars of it away to many and still it looms. I think a couple of years ago, we must have been eating more of it, so that explains my super ramp up in production last year.

    I’m seriously considering using it for currency. It, at least, has some intrinsic value.

  5. Your post brought out a confession from my wife. She just told me that instead of using the old garlic she has been sneaking fresh bulbs from the garden for over a week now…the thief. 🙂 I did not complain too loudly as our stored garlic is starting to get a bit soft…do you ever plant it in that stage?

    Anyway, thieving aside, we figured out last year that about 400 plants give us enough garlic for soup, sauce and some raw garlic to ward off resident vampires (mosquitoes). Your garlic looks marvelous, is that an elephant garlic in your hand?

    I’m with the “family” I hate frozen broccoli, until last year that is. We now use it for broccoli soup, I like that. We also use it for broccoli pesto, I really like that.

    By the way, the six scallions you graciously sent us have turned in many hundreds of future scallions via their seed…pretty cool.

  6. This has been our first year of full garlic self-sufficiency! We just used our last head, there is scape pesto aplenty in the fridge and freezer, and the new crop is about ready to go (could nic from the bed if we were really desperate). Hub mentioned that we needed to *buy* a few heads if we were “almost out” and he was nearly kicked out of the kitchen 😉

    It is really hard to get the hang of it all, your comment on “overly precious or overly expendable” rings very true. Do we not eat pear butter as much as I thought, or did I hoard it for the first six months?

    And funny how you mix it up–this year I froze tons more sauce, and now have quite a few jars of plain tomatoes leftover, guess that’s what I used them for last year… So this year it’s more salsa instead!

  7. In the greenhouse? Really? I will have to try that. We planted at the end of October 2008 ( a little early) and just pulled ours up last Thursday. It was our first attempt at garlic, and was not as big a crop as I would have liked, but will get us through if used semi-sparingly. Found you from These Days in French Life.

  8. Garlic soup? Mmmm. Garlic is my favorite thing, but we’ve never tried growing it. Maybe next year.

  9. Stef, you should! It’s in that “much better if you grow it” camp.

    Michelle, well, my advice would be to try to save some of the biggest heads to replant next year. I would agree with you in principle that new things are always fun to try but garlic unfortunately is such an iffy prospect that you’ll be most successful with stuff that you find grows well for you. (Believe me, I am saving you years of disappointing harvests by telling you this!) But you are likewise quite correct: all gardens are at their best in the future tense!!

    Andrea! Isn’t it fun that every year you learn more? I think this is the most exciting thing about mastering the gardens-slash-food preservation: that happy revelation that INDEED there is enough salsa, let’s have a party! This year you’ll be saying the same about applesauce and canned tomatoes. Yay.

    Nada, wiser people than me have claimed one needs two years’ worth of any precious canned item to offset the prospect of a crappy harvest the preceding year. I think this is wise counsel, however, having two years’ worth of canned items downstairs sounds like a lot more work, you know? But indeed, you’ve got two good things going on: one, not everyone makes marmalade so your stash is indeed golden, and two, you’re in new digs so learning your new patch of ground kinda adds to your growing pressure. It IS nice, I will admit, having lots of garlic as opposed to, say, zucchini: such little bursts of flavor found in those bulbs. Zucchini, nice, but nowhere near as valuable. Good luck with next spring’s harvest!

    Mike, no, that’s just a hardneck garlic: a German hardy of some bulbs I brought back with me from a farmer’s market in NYC (one stinky suitcase, admittedly). I figured if they can grow in the Hudson valley, they’ll do fine here and I was right. So: 400 heads? Wow. Are they small-ish? I get by with maybe half that and have lots to spare…but then again many of them are huge. Tell your wife I have been doing the same thing mainly because peeling the small storage ones is a pain whereas the newly-dug and large cloves are a timesaving joy. And yes, that broccoli. The new plan (always a new plan) is to get by with a lot less frozen stuff, moving much more of it to the land of the greenhouses and thus freshly grown. I think it’s a good plan and indeed I will be blathering on about it soon enough. But I am glad to hear about the scallions! Red ones coming up next…

    Sara, what great news! Congratulations. Garlic is one of those items that’s much more worthwhile to grow at home, mainly because of how you can control it. For what it’s worth I don’t let “all” of it grow to full size as I think green garlic in early spring is to die for…in point of fact, when I feel like eating ANYTHING out of the gardens is the Best time for eating it, I think! (Maybe I have a post in me about that.) But you brought up something important: your food habits do change from year to year. For example, our diet has gotten a lot more meat-dependent now that I raise meat birds, so, less produce is required (somewhat less anyway), and adjustments need to be made. Maybe a pear butter party is at hand for you?

    Sinclair, hi! Isn’t Riana great? Do try it in the greenhouse. Our gardens are composed of nasty clay soil no matter how much augmentation I do so I have simply found that garlic grows better in the greenhouse. That, and I don’t need to be stingy, a plus!!

    Rurality, next year IS this year hint hint!! Never too late to scour the farmers’ markets by you and chat with those folks about the variety and how well they do. If they grow for them, they’ll grow for you…

  10. First year growing garlic for me (and that was almost by accident since in November I planted some sprouting garlic cloves from the store), and I am definitively hooked. Not self sufficient yet…

    Can you share what you do for the curing (I am about to dig p my bulbs)?

  11. HI Sylvie! Yes, glad you’re hooked!

    Well, I simply set them on some old screens to dry in the greenhouse for a couple of weeks. You wipe off as much dirt as you can, but just leave the roots and outer layers on. You can also hang them up to do this; anywhere it’s dry and airy will do the job. After about 2 weeks they should be dry enough to further clean and trim them: most of the greens will have browned by this point and the roots should likewise be dead-looking. I cut off the roots and pull off the outer, dirtiest layer of leaves, and I either braid the softnecks or cut the hardnecks at this point. The hardnecks shown here could use a couple more days of drying so that’s where they are. They then go into open paper bags and are stored on a shelf at the bottom of the basement stairs: cool, not terribly dry conditions. The hardnecks need to be used up first as they tend to soften and rot quicker if you don’t pay attention!

  12. I just aquired some garlic from our neighbor down the street. I went for a chat, ate fresh figs from his trees, and he dug me some garlic after our conversation. I guess I should put them into the ground. He said I could plant them now if I wanted so I’m going to try it. The only problem here is storage. I can probably grow it, and dry it, but the ‘cool and not so dry’? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Our dewpoints are in the upper 70’s. Any suggestions?

  13. Yes, they are definitely not the biggest garlics, and I am not really sure what kind they are. We often use the entire bulb in a meal. I also need to have a bunch for replants so that consumes 80-100 of the bulbs. In addition to our own we are trying 3 new types this year; German Porcelain hardneck (they look the best so far), a few (only 8) elephant, and Nootka Rose softneck.

  14. I love reading about your vegetable garden. Forces outside my control have forced me out of the veggie business the last 2 years, but I’m hoping for a garden next summer. I love the idea about the seed trading. Do you need to have something to trade to participate?

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