Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Harvest

Rachel's Freshly Dug Garlic

Our new friend Rachel gardens, cooks, eats, shops, and lives in Richmond's Northside.
Here's what she wrote... 
"I am so glad to have the opportunity to share in the RFC!
 My household is in the process of harvesting and curing our garlic. We have a small cape house with a large garden on the Northside. As our garden has grown, we've learned much about growing food, of course, but many lessons in how to store the fruits of our labor. These are tough lessons to learn! How disappointing to find that your beautiful food has gone to mush or has rotted. Through trial and error (and let's face it, a few tears) we've learned that's food storage has two key elements: prep and placement.
Right now it is all about the garlic and shallots, but  time is of the essence as our potatoes need to be harvested and, in a small house, space is limited.

When you first harvest your garlic and shallots (potatoes too) you must handle them gingerly and lay them out flat in a cool dry spot for several weeks to cure. Don't scrub off the dirt just yet. The skin is fragile and too vigorous brushing can tear the product (not good for storage).

This process allows the skin to harden and the product to become more firm. Less moisture means that the product will store better and for longer. So! This is your prep and it ain't pretty. Your leaves will dry and make a bit of a mess. Your dirt will dry and crumble. Ah, but the mess means you are doing something right. You'll see the dirt give way to creamy garlic skin and to bright shallot paper.
Once cured, you'll want to trim your product of its dried leaves and gently brush off the dirt. Now, find a place to store the haul. Best practice is to store the garlic and the shallots in a cool dark spot, labeling helps. Done properly, a good storage program will allow you to enjoy these summer treats for months to come. Last year we planted 50 square feet of garlic and, with this storage program, we had garlic available to us through December.

As if on cue, my husband harvested the potato crop today as well. Check out this basket o' spuds! Like the garlic and shallots, you need to let them cure. Same deal, you want a cool spot without much heat or  moisture. By the way, a fresh potato tastes nothing a store-bought potato. They have more water content and almost a peppiness in the taste. So good!
(all photos, and writing by Rachel Rees)

1 comment:

  1. I harvested my Northside garlic this week too. I know that the advice is to cure it in a cool place but my very dry and warm unattached garage did a great job last year.I had garlic through February. I was in Italy a few years ago; a highlight of my trip was finding piles of garlic curing in a little basement room in a medieval castle that had become an organic farm.