In October 2013, my friend Kate and I decided to undertake a little research project. We wanted to know how organic seed garlic purchased through City Folk’s Farm Shop from Seeds of Change compared to large, fully developed cloves from reputable farmers’ market growers. Many garlic growers keep back their own seed stock and it stood to reason that maybe those of us who don’t have seed stock could save a little cash and perpetuate locally adapted strains by buying from a farmers’ market vendor.
So we planted four varieties of garlic in two different locations in the garden. They all grew well, we ate the scapes, and then as leaves faded it was time to harvest. What seed source would win?
It turns out that our paper map (which is a more detailed record than I usually keep) was missing one critical component: number of cloves planted. Wooden markers long degraded, we couldn’t quite tell where one variety stopped and another began. This made comparing the harvest difficult.
We only grew Broadleaf Czech garlic from Seed Saver’s Exchange. It made tiny little heads with many little cloves which means fiddly peeling work to cook with it. We won’t be growing Czech again.
The Music or Elephant varieties grew similarly whether from farmers’ market or Seed Saver’s Exchange seed stock as far as we could tell from our incomplete documentation. Elephant is fun to grow because it produces big heads of big cloves, but it doesn’t keep well so we know we won’t ever rely on that variety alone.
The one obvious, undeniable conclusion was that the German Hardneck harvest from Gerry’s Garden, a Clintonville Farmer’s Market vendor, produced bigger heads than the Seed Saver’s Exchange seed garlic. Overall, this variety was the most vigorous producer too. Our 2015 garlic plot (planted in just a few months) will be dominated by German Hardneck seed stock that we hold back from our 2014 harvest.
How did your garlic grow this year? On Thursday I’ll share how we harvested and cured our 100+ heads of garlic.
PS. I’m teaching about harvesting and produce storage techniques at City Folk’s Farm Shop on Thursday evening. Seats are still available!