Posted by Tony Ricci on 06/29 at 12:07 PM
There are several milestones during the year that mark dramatic shifts in the growing season. For me, it’s always the garlic harvest, which coincides with the first full week of summer. The harvest brings to a close the long wait for the king of alliums that started back in November when the final clove was tucked in the ground for the winter.
Garlic is a precise, no-nonsense crop that sticks to its preordained schedule whether you like it or not. It’s not going to wait around for a distracted farmer to fit it in to his daily planner. Wait a week too long and tough luck, it’s on to its next phase of development without so much as a by-your-leave.
This year we were lucky to have a full crew to get the harvest done quickly and expertly. Novices to pulling garlic are always amazed at crops that develop below ground. It brings on a childlike thrill of finding buried treasure. But as with all farm labor, the initial excitement wears thin as the next endless row looms beyond the horizon.
After about two hours of lower back pain, the post-high depression starts setting in, and I have to get creative about heading off a general rebellion. Usually I just blurt out random statements like, “Hey, which one of you wants to come down to the pond with me and pick stinging nettles?” That along with, “We sure have been lucky not to run into any snakes today,” really inspires the crew to get that garlic out of the field as quickly as possible.
Once we get the garlic hung in the barn, there is a collective sense of accomplishment that makes the day’s work seem worthwhile. Of course, there’s always someone in the crowd who has to put a damper on things by asking the inevitable question, “How long does it take to get rid of the smell of garlic on your body?” My usual response is to segue into an oration of supply side economics, but so far this tactic hasn’t been very successful in hiding the horrid truth about growing garlic for a living – with the exception of the occasional young Republican that we might hire. When I’m finally forced to reveal their odoriferous sentence, the universal response is, “November! Do you mean I have to smell like this for the next six months? I didn’t sign up for this!”
“Don’t worry,” I say. “We’ll be picking leeks sometime in September. That should cover up the garlic smell.” That’s about the time someone suggests rolling me in the nettle patch. No one ever claimed that farming was risk free.
Visit Green Heron Farm’s Facebook page to watch a video tutorial on garlic harvesting.
Author: Tony Ricci
Bio: Co-owner and operator of Green Heron Farm in southern Huntingdon County | Provides year-round supplies of local, organic vegetables (retail and wholesale) across central Pennsylvania
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