Grand Gorge Garlic and Maple Farm is located in New York and is a regular at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival selling organic garlic, maple syrup and (new this year) blue potatoes.
Fred, an expert grower at the farm generously took the time to tell me about the farm. “I’ve always loved garlic and growing plants. In 2005 I inherited an abandoned plot of garlic in a field adjacent to my cabin. Because the garlic had been untended, it had a head (umbel) full of seeds (bulbils) so I planted the bulbils, sewing the seeds the way nature intended.”
“This led to the discovery that allowing the scapes (flower buds) to grow and develop into umbels (seed heads) has some benefits – the dried garlic has better longevity, stays dormant longer and does not sprout internally. It does not go soft, has plenty of oil and a better flavor. So this is how we harvest our garlic at the farm – with the stem, leaves and umbels uncut.”
Fred explained that healthy soil is vital for a successful harvest “Our method is a two-year rotation. In the first year, the planting bed is prepared. Aged manure (about three years old) is spread over the surface. Soil testing will dictate whether nutrients should be added (sea minerals, lime or magnesium).”
“In the second year, buckwheat is grown as a cover crop and weeds are allowed to grow. These plants provide food for pollinating insects. A local herbalist harvests the wild plants because after many years of organic farming, the soil is so pure. We are a certified organic farm and have passed inspections by NOFA.” (NOFA is the North East Organic Farming Association)
“In the 3rd week of September, the cover crops are chopped up and the soil is tilled. Garlic is planted about mid-October, then the soil is covered with a 6 inch layer of straw mulch.”
The garlic is harvested in July the following year. We grow about 50,000 bulbs including rare varieties. The bulbs are dried in a home-made drying shed which is open at both ends to allow a breeze to flow through.”
How to grow garlic in your backyard – Fred shared these tips
- Take a test of the soil. Your local Cornell Cooperative Extension can help with this
- Add nutrients/amendments to the soil per the results of the soil test.
- Plant the garlic cloves or bulbils in mid to late October (for the Hudson Valley region)
- plant the garlic cloves or bulbils pointy end up. Plant in rows with the cloves 2-3 ” deep, 6″ to 8″ apart.
- The following year, when the garlic has started to grow, don’t cut the scapes, let the umbels form
- When the top 4 leaves are 50% brown it’s time to harvest. This usually coincides with the hottest days of the summer in July.
- Dry (cure) the garlic with the stem, leaves attached and umbels attached.
- Don’t break the bulb up until just before eating or planting.
- Bulbils can be used as seed for subsequent crops or eaten on salad/stirred into sauces/on sandwiches.
Fred is proud to say “This year we are harvesting organic blue potatoes and they will be available at the Garlic Festival. (The USDA has found up to 35 different chemicals on non-organic potatoes). Our potatoes are heavy and nutrient-dense. Partner them with our garlic for the best garlic-mashed potatoes you’ve ever tasted – off the charts!”
Fred is proud to say that “2015 is a banner year for Grand Gorge Garlic.”
I think we are very fortunate to have successful organic farms in New York, let’s support them at the Garlic Festival!