A Year At New Oxley Garlic, Naturally!
We plant early October in soil nourished naturally with compost tea and green manure crops. We crack the stem of the bulbs held back for planting. Thousands of cloves are loosened and separated and placed in containers ready to go to the planting wagon pulled behind a small tractor; two people sit at ground level and place single cloves in the soil, pointy side up.
The garlic bulb must be vernalized, this process takes place when the ground freezes. The freezing stimulates the plant to grow and produce fully-cloved bulbs. The green of the garlic begins to peek through late March to early April. It is always a time of worry, and then wonder when it finally breaks ground level.
The next few months we weed, weed and weed some more. Garlic does not compete well with weeds; they have minimal leaf exposure due to the size and placement of their leaves so it’s imperative they capture as much sunlight as possible. Our rows are planted east to west to optimize exposure.
The hard neck garlic produces scapes, a tall stalk that grows out of the centre of the plant. It reaches above the top leaves and forms a beautiful, graceful curve. We harvest these scapes early to mid-July by cutting or snapping the stalk at the “v” where it emerged. Scapes are a great culinary delight, there are the first taste of the season and can be used like garlic, although their flavour is milder.
Early August the bottom leaves of the garlic plant begin to wither and die back, this indicates it has stopped growing and it’s time to start our week-long harvest. We loosen the soil with our Noble blade plough, plants are loaded on a wagon and taken back to the curing shed. The garlic plants are bundled and hung on high tensile wire lines to cure naturally, protected from the sun but ventilated by the breezes off the hills.
Fully cured three to four weeks later they are ready for final grooming; the stalks trimmed, the bottoms cleaned and it’s ready for the market. Fresh bulbs are hot and spicy; roasted they become mellow and magical.
Truly a gift from Mother Nature