My Quest For Fresh Garlic

Photo credit: Leaf Storm Press—permission granted by Stanley Crawford

What inspired this post was my quest for fresh garlic, not commercially grown garlic. There’s a big difference. What reignited the subject was my recent purchase of The Garlic Papers by Stanley Crawford, published by Leaf Storm Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

For as long as I can recall I have always grown my own herbs, even on our postage-sized lot in California. So when we moved to Texas and bought an acre of land I was in garden heaven. The challenge was to find a space in our yard that wasn’t heavily shaded by mature post oaks, hickory trees, and our evergreen Eastern Red cedars. 

We found the ideal spot on our side yard. Ideal because it was in full sun, but a challenge because of the slope and the soil conditions. With no alternative location, we set about terracing the steep bank with a three-tier system of cinderblock and brick retaining walls. Why brick? Because brick is relatively inexpensive in Texas. Why? The simple answer is—clay. https://www.dmagazine.com/frontburner/2015/10/why-are-most-north-texas-houses-built-of-brick/

As prized as clay might be for brick making, we weren’t thrilled with the idea of excavating yards of clay from our garden site, only to refill the beds with organic soil, but we had no choice. Surprisingly, we discovered our property sat on a vein of fine sandy loam. Sandy soil poses its own problems, but ones I could deal with. First off, I wouldn’t be the one installing our pool in what our builder called “great, sugar sand”; and two, I would combat the nematode-infested earth and win. Wishful thinking. 

You can read more about the parasitic pest here:  https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/a20705657/nematodes/

For fifteen years our garden served us well, producing an abundance of vegetables for ourselves and our neighbors. After a few years of trial and error, I crossed certain plants off my list, settling on those that were productive in the Texas climate and soils, and those that were nematode resistant. Nothing I tried deterred, never mind killed, the pests and they continued to wreck havoc, especially on root vegetables, so I wrote them off first and switched my tomato variety to nematode-resistant Celebrity. I’ve planted Celebrity for over thirty years and it has never failed me. My loyalty remains steadfast. 

What I missed the most about not growing root vegetables was not what most people would think. What I longed for was garden-fresh garlic, shallots, and onions. That pushed me to seek an outside source and led me to Pena Blanca Farms in New Mexico. For years, they air-shipped all three to me at a cost but well worth the money in my estimation. Then the owners sold the farm, leaving me to hunt for a new source.

While I searched, I resorted to buying garlic in the supermarkets from an organic grower in California—Christopher Ranch. Over time, I noticed a distinct decline in the quality of the garlic. By then, I suspect I was buying garlic from China and not a product grown in the US and definitely not organic.

Eventually, my quest led me to Stanley Crawford, owner of El Bosque Garlic Farm in Dixon, New Mexico.

Read more about Christopher Ranch and Chinese garlic:  https://www.thepacker.com/article/throwback-10-acres-garlic

Next week: Stanley Crawford and The Garlic Papers.

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