Garlic and Epazote!!!

I finished harvesting garlic this morning.  Thanks to the fact that the hoophouses were constructed over top of last fall’s garlic bed, my harvest is about 3 weeks early.  Now I have a nice empty space where I can plant another crop.  A few days ago, I dug out about 10 bulbs with my small hand spade.  Yesterday, at Tractor Supply, I purchased a small “Razorback” shovel.  It comes to my knee. My husband chuckled at  my little shovel.  Using that this morning, I easily harvested the remaining 20 or so bulbs in about 10 minutes.  EASY!  I think it will also be great for harvesting all of my root crops–carrots, beets (if I ever get any!), potatoes, and sweet potatoes.  Tools make a tremendous difference.   Also, took the handheld wire weeder and the stirrup hoe to all the beds this morning.  So easy and satisfying.

WEED OFTEN AND EARLY IN THE SEASON SO WHEN THE HARVEST COMES ON HOT AND HEAVY YOU HAVE ALREADY WON THE BATTLE!

Once garlic is harvested (leaving the entire plant intact), it needs to be cured. 

This is done by storing it in a dry area with good air circulation.  I put it in my garage on my seed starting mini-greenhouse.  I use this because it has shelves that are wire grates and allow for plenty of circulation.  It takes about 3 weeks.  The curing process is what hardens up the outer covering of the bulb and the layers around each clove.  After curing you can trim the tops and roots and it can be stored in a dry, cool location in mesh bags or in shallow pans.  Some of the best ones can be planted this fall for next year.  One clove is planted and that becomes a full bulb.

Epazote is a very fragrant and tasty herb used in Mexican cooking. It is a weed to most but a culinary delight to us.  I can still taste the fresh masa quesadillas at Rick Bayless’ s Frontera Grill in Chicago with fresh cheese and epazote.  Yum!  Wiki page:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysphania_ambrosioides  It can be hard to come by fresh around here–even in Mexican stores.  I tracked down seeds and planted some last year.  This morning I discovered a patch of it growing on the garden path. What a welcome weed!  I will harvest heavily and use fresh and dry.  if you are local and would like to try some, let me know.  It may very well be in your backyard too.

I harvested a mountain of kale this morning and will be dehydrating it.  It’s a good idea to preserve as much as you can early on for 2 reasons–the July-September harvesting and preserving workload is intense and it’s great to have as much of the work done early as possible.  Secondly, the bug pressure will build as summer continues, and your greens will likely be a lot less “damaged” now than later.  As the bug pressure becomes more than I want to deal with, I pull lettuce, kale, and other items out of the ground and let the chickens feast.

Note:  the zuchinni, basil, and tomatoes are all fresh and local.  The basil is ours and the tomatoes and zuchinni are from the market and available due to the amazing season extending help of high tunnels and greenhouses.

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