How to Plant, Grow, Harvest, and Store Garlic (plus how make garlic oil)

20180711_081445Garlic is among the easiest of all plants to grow.  The homesteader can simply top a bed with compost that has been recently harvested of its crops in October and plant a few heads of garlic.

Any garlic will do (organic always preferable).  One does not need to pay exorbitant prices for “planting garlic.”  Choose a variety from the market or health food store you enjoy.

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Separate the cloves and plant them three inches apart.  Cover with soil and top with straw.

They are among the first stalks of green in springtime.  You will see them and be reminded of your clever fall planting.  Who doesn’t love garlic?  The humble cloves can rid you of the plague, flu viruses, and cancer while adding amazing flavor to any ethnicity of food.

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Now, here is the fun part!  Come July, the stalks will have turned mostly straw colored and will languish and fall to the earth.  Gently unearth them with a hand spade, pulling out bulbs of aromatic garlic.  Shake the dirt off.  I always save twist ties and rubber bands for gardening.  Secure the stalks with a twist tie and hang from a hook in an airy, warm spot.  Like the kitchen!  In two weeks or so, the papery husks will have dried and your garlic will last nicely.  From there you can lay them in a box in the root cellar or leave them as a ristra in the kitchen so garlic is always in reach!  Save a few bulbs to plant this fall!

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Garlic Oil 

Pour 1 cup of good olive oil into a sauce pan with 1 clove of garlic, a bit of salt and pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Heat over medium-low heat, swirling the pan often, for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with great bread or drizzle over vegetables.

Garlic; How to Use as Medicine and How to Make Infused Honey

20180117_171823Garlic is one of the most important plants.  It is easy to grow, easy to find, and easy to use.  The garlic bulb is unassuming but let us not forget its amazing qualities.

Garlic is still one of our most important antibiotics in the fight against the scariest of diseases being spread in our unstable hospital system, Sepsis and MRSA.  As each year’s viruses become more and more fierce and as cancer rates skyrocket due to foods and medicines and pollutants and stress, we can look to this humble clove of garlic to help us.  Do not underestimate it.  It is hundreds of times more potent than any marketed antibiotic or blood cleanser.

Garlic is safe for all animals as well, making it an important antibiotic.  It is a myth that cats and dogs cannot consume garlic.  We have used garlic successfully for many, many years in our work to help heal hundreds of animals.

Garlic is effective against the common cold and helps clear the blood of toxins.  It is effective in an extract form (though rather strong), an infused honey (recipe to follow), in a glycerite for small animals and children, and is extremely beneficial in food.

A few simple tools make life easier in the kitchen.

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The garlic peeler is a small, rough mat, much like what we use to open jars with.  Roll the cloves in the peeler with your palm and they pop out without the skins!

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Likewise, a garlic press saves time chopping and opens up the garlic so that more of the properties can be released.

As in all medicines, some heating is quite beneficial but even if you cook the garlic for some time, its properties simply transfer to the base, stock, or sauce.  You will still get the medicine.

Use plenty of garlic in your sauces, soups, and bases for recipes.  Grow a patch of garlic in the yard.  You can start them in April and harvest this fall.  Simply buy a bulb of organic garlic from the store, separate the cloves, and plant them two inches apart.  Cover with a little straw.

Garlic is anti-biotic, anti-bacterial, anti-yeast, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-cancer.  It cleanses the blood of bad cells, of toxins, and treats upper respiratory infections quickly.  It will help prevent the flu and is even more amazing when added to other similar propertied herbs, like onion, oregano, rosemary, sage, echinacea, juniper berries, oregon grape root, and rose hips.

Infused Cold and Flu Honey

In a saucepan combine 1 clove of minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon each rosemary, sage, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon of thyme.  Add a pinch of hot pepper if you like.  Cover with 1 cup or so of honey.  Heat on medium-low, swirling contents often, for 20 minutes.  Strain.  Add a smidgen of whiskey if desired to make syrup.  Or just use in tea.  Store in a canning jar.  It’s quite tasty and stays good forever.  Take as much as you need to fight a cold!  Or use daily by teaspoon or in tea.

Take care of yourselves out there, Folks!

Spring Produce and Lemony Spring Soup

It is easy to find dinner inspiration when it is not the dead of winter!  The garnet orbs caught my eye as I was watering.  One might have thought I had found gold the way I danced over and started pulling those beautiful earthy radishes from their bed.  The first crop.  Lettuce, lamb’s quarters, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and lemon thyme joined the pile of growing dinner plans.  And a leek!  Left over from the gardener the year before, I am thankful.  I have never been successful at growing leeks!  Home it went.

Lemony Spring Soup

First gather all inspirations.  I had small potatoes, red and yellow, from the market, a Jerusalem artichoke, radishes, herbs, greens (wild and cultivated).  Use what you have!

First we start with a sofrito.  In Italy this is onion, garlic, carrot, celery.

I chopped 1 leek, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 carrot, 1 celery stalk and sautéed in beautiful olive oil until the leeks and garlic were savory and transparent.  I chopped 2 potatoes, 1 diced Jerusalem artichoke, the radishes and added them to the pot.

I used a few leaves of lemon balm, a few of lemon verbena, lemon thyme.  I saved cilantro for the end because I am the only one who adores it.

Chop up greens and herbs and add to pot with 2 cups of vegetable broth.

To the broth I added 3 Tablespoons of Vietnamese Lemon Curry but you could add Italian seasoning, or Mexican seasoning, or Spanish, or your favorite curry or nothing at all!

Add 2 slices of lemon and 2 one inch pieces of ginger, and a real good splash of white wine to the broth and let simmer until everything is tender.

Check your flavor and add salt and pepper if needed.

I add cilantro to my bowl first so Doug doesn’t have to have any.  Remove lemon and ginger pieces.  Pour yourself a big refreshing bowl.  Delicious!

How to Make Ear Drops

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Shyanne often had ear aches when she was little.  A lot of children do.  Ear infections, ear aches, swimmer’s ear, and in dogs and cats we have yeast infections and ear mites.  One single ear drop can take care of it all.

Take 1 clove of garlic (more is not better) sliced in half and combine with 1/2 cup of olive oil in a sauce pan.  If you have a willow tree, take some of the leaves or a 1/2 inch twig.  If you have mullein flowers, use those.  If you have a health food store you can pick up willow bark or you can purchase it online.  Use about 2 teaspoons.

Now over medium-low heat gently shake the pan every minute or so to keep the oil from burning.  Do this for 20 minutes until the smell of garlic is evident.  Cool and use a cotton ball, cotton swab, or dropper to administer a few drops in affected ear.

Or, work ahead of time.  Add all ingredients into a half pint jar and place in sunny window for two weeks.  Done.

This little concoction can save you in the middle of the night with a screaming baby or hundreds of dollars at the vet with a dog who won’t stop scratching his ears!

So simple.  So effective.

 

What to Plant Now (4 weeks before last frost. Hallelujah!)

It’s approximately four weeks before the last frost date.  As I sit here rather cold this morning again, I am sure post-frost date is going to feel pretty darn good.

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I used to plant everything May 12th.  Which of course endured one last frost.  I planted all the seeds for cold crops and summer crops.  No succession planting, no spring, summer, and fall plantings, just all in one shot.  Now I know a little better.  Still learning, I assure you, but I know in order to get those cold crops to finish growing they need to be planted strategically.  And anything under the ground loves a little time in the spring to get started.

Here is a modest list of what you can plant now.  Remember, only cold crop seeds and underground crops can be planted now.

4 weeks before: radishes, parsnips, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, Alaskan or English peas, snap peas, snow peas, and asparagus.

This year I started the broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage in a greenhouse to see if they grew any faster this year (we have a rather short growing season) so they cannot go outside until after the frost date now.

2 weeks before: herb plants, flower seeds, herb seeds, strawberries, lettuce mixes, and more of the above seeds to stretch your season!

May 15thish plant the rest!  In July plant everything above again for yummy fall treats.  You’ll miss radishes by then!

Family Harvest

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We settled into the hot car and left our mini-farm in the country.  We drove over an hour to the harvest site…in Denver!  Seems funny to leave the country to head to the city to get delicious produce, but that is what we did.  Over the rivers and through the woods to Great-Aunt Donna’s house we go!

IMG_0825 (I love this picture of Doug!)

My Great Aunt Donna (mind you, that makes here great, great, great aunt to Maryjane…what a blessing.) has a large corner plot of land and a fifties style brick home on a busy street in Denver.  For years she has cultivated a garden worthy of magazines.  She is a Master gardener and a generous heart.  When she called and said the grapes were ready, we didn’t dilly dally!  The raccoons and the neighbors were eyeing the prize.

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It made for such a lovely day that my grandparents came over as well.  They are all of unknown vintage according to Aunt Donna, but I can tell you that in that room was over 240 years of combined farming/gardening experience.  I thought up until recently that the green thumb had skipped me but I seem to have grown into it!

IMG_0834 (Emily, Maryjane, Grandma Nancy, myself, and Aunt Donna)

My grandma, Nancy, had eight brothers and sisters and lived on a farm in Nebraska.  Aunt Donna was the second oldest, Grandma was in the middle.  When their father died suddenly, my great grandmother was with child and was left with a great farm and many children.  They sold and moved to Denver to live with family.  My grandma was ten when they moved and so delights me with tales from the farm.

IMG_0835 (Love my Grandpa!)

Grandpa grew up in Sterling, Colorado and before he hit the rodeo and military, he did his time on a sugar beet farm.

IMG_0828 (Gold in the ground…garlic)

Both of them looked at me strangely when I announced that we wanted to become farmers!  However, their homes and yards have always been filled with traces of the farming bug.  Grandma and Grandpa’s previous home with a garden and a plethora of rose bushes.  The indoor bay window I spoke about in an earlier post always filled with life and greenery.  Their present home with the same lovely roses.

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Aunt Donna’s yard filled to the brim with grapes, apples, rhubarb, squash, tomatoes, greens, and herbs.  She is slowing down now, but the things she has taught me and the bounty she has received each year will stay with me forever in memory and the knowledge that one can farm anywhere is important to remember.

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Though I have a huge family on both sides, many whom I resemble, many whom I share mannerisms with, Grandma and her siblings are the ones I always felt I stemmed from.  The ones I came from.  I married a man very similar to my Grandpa even.  These are my people.

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It was so glorious to bring the fifth generation over of future farm girls.  Maryjane and Emily joined us.  Maryjane’s first harvest.  She played in the grass, ate grapes, and smiled at everyone.  The future of what these fine people laid out for us.  Family, food, love….and an irrepressible need to grow things.

IMG_0823 (Beautiful farm girls, Emily and Maryjane)

Early Crops for Spring

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“Take me home, country roads, to the place…I belooongg!”  I was belting out my favorite John Denver song while tilling the sweet ground.  The few inches of leaves (from my neighbor’s trash last fall) and compost that I put on before the fierce winter weather did the ground good.  It is dark and fragrant.  The moisture stayed in many parts of it.  This winter has been the most moisture we have received here in a long time and though I am still cold, it is nice to have so much damp ground.  The pastures last year were so dry that hay spiked in price, animals went hungry, people panicked.  The air is sweet with cool snow.

I raked back the majority of the unbroken-down mulch to the side.  I gently tufted the soil with a rake, not turning it (too many nice microorganisms workin’ for a livin’ down there!), just loosening the top.  Mulch will return once the plants are up.

I made an impromptu chart on the back of an index card during a sudden moment of gardening inspiration in January.  I listed all the seeds to be planted in April (my early crops), all the ones that are planted third week of May (summer crops), and the ones that will be replanted the end of July and August (late crops….same as the early crops).  I have eleven raised beds so I had to do some fancy finagling to get everything to fit.  So I gave each bed a number and set to work jotting down what should be planted where.  What will have time to finish growing in order to put in summer crops?  Where will I have space to put in late crops and still have room for perennials and medicinal herbs?

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Collard greens, Swiss chard, two kinds of kale, radishes, and two kinds of lettuce went into bed 1 which will be followed by tomatoes and peppers with greens continuously grown around them.

In a brief moment of gardening brilliance I set  up three tomato cages and planted peas around the perimeter in a circle in lieu of a trellis.  The peas and a few red potatoes and the most beautiful scarlet carrots went into bed 3 to be followed by soybeans and lettuce.

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The limited potatoes are because I purchased them from the nursery then left them on the car floor.  Where they were then trampled by various teenager’s feet and piles of this and that.  The remaining potatoes are shriveling and look rather pathetic but I still intend to plant them today in the potato barrels.

Cabbage and cauliflower went into bed 4 nestled in with surprise onion shoots from last year.  I don’t have the heart to pull them out.  I will be lucky if the delicious cabbage and cauliflower ever transpire, we have a short growing season and bugs that love them so I don’t have anything planned for bed 4.  Just a nice, long luxurious growing season for the cruciferous delicacies I love.

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The garlic is coming up with frost burned tips, slow but sure.  I do hope they make it!  One cannot survive in the kitchen without a smidge of garlic.

Onions went in to bed 8.  The possibly dead…possibly sleeping…Cabernet Sauvignon grape vine slumbers (hopefully) next to them.  And in a fit of ridiculous hopefulness, Brussels sprout seeds joined the onions in bed.

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The snow gently covered them for the last two days since I planted.  Today should shine bright and cool.  We will be nearing temperatures in the 70’s by the weekend and early germinated shoots ought to be sticking their heads up to peek at their new world.  I will have my face to the sun, singing, “Take me home, country roads…..”

Making Extracts (cold medicine and vanilla)

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One for cooking, one for health:

For Health: Garlic and Herb with Echinacea Extract

Feel a cold coming on?  You will only have to start taking your new cold extract and you will feel better in no time!  The herbs in this mixture are anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-biotic, and specific to the lymphatic system and to the upper respiratory system.  And most of the herbs are in your cupboard!

In a pint jar add 1 clove of garlic (whole is fine), 1 Tb of basil, 1/2 ts of rosemary, 1/4 t thyme, pinch of ginger.  If you grow purple coneflower, aka Echinacea, then place 1 Tb of crushed leaves or a big flower in it.  You can get it from the health food store or online if necessary.

Fill jar with vodka, rum, brandy, or apple cider vinegar if you are adverse to alcohol (the alcohol works the fastest though).  Shake daily and keep in window for a week.  Place in cupboard.  After four weeks, strain.  It is ready after a week, however.  Just dip your teaspoon in there.  You can put your teaspoon of ‘maybe not the yummiest concoction you ever made’ into a tablespoon of orange juice to help it go down! This works as cold medicine as well.  Take 1 ts as needed.  You cannot overdose!

For Cooking: Vanilla Extract

This one is much tastier.  In fact I insist that you put a little in your batter and have a thimble yourself.  Delicious! (And helps libido if you wanted it for health reasons!)  When recipes call for a teaspoon of vanilla extract I always double it.  This stuff is too good not to use plenty.  When you get to the store, check out the ingredients of store-bought vanilla extract.  You are making the same thing only fresher and more fabulous and you will save so much money!

In a pint jar place one whole vanilla bean (health food stores, online).  Add 1/4 cup of brown sugar.  Fill with rum or brandy.  Let sit for a week in the cupboard before using it.  Don’t strain it!  When it gets half way down, add another bean, a touch of brown sugar, and top with more alcohol.

Try adding a splash of vanilla extract and orange juice while making scrambled eggs.  We call them “sweet eggs”.  They are very good!