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This tale starts with a word of caution, when your good friend who will likely be skipping through fields of self-cultivated weed well into his late years gives you a plant, expect it to grow.
Last winter we were extremely happy to have our friends come to visit us, even though it takes over five hours to make the journey by car. With them, they brought something that we use almost daily in our cooking, a homegrown garlic braid. We were ecstatic to get this from our friends, not only because we use it, but because this is one of our first exchanges with other local food growers since we decided the homesteading life was something we wanted to try. Little did we know what we were in for.
The garlic braid that our friends brought wasn't your average garlic braid, the mass of garlic was probably as thick as my bicep. There was no way we were going to be able to get through that much garlic but we were determined to try.
It wasn't until a few months later when we still had garlic left over that, not knowing any better, we placed it in an airtight container in our fridge to stop it from spoiling. By the next time we went to use it we had seven cloves of garlic individually sprouting and rooting. We couldn't believe our eyes!
By this time it was mid-summer, we didn't really know what to do with this tentacle thing in our fridge but it clearly couldn't stay there. So after a few conversations on what to do with these determined little plants, I decided to build them a temporary home. With a full day of determination, a few scrap pieces of pallet wood and a screw here and there, I made them a very temporary home in a shallow planter box. We placed this box in our little townhouse backyard and didn't expect much.
To our amazement within two weeks we had hardy garlic stocks shooting from their thrown together planter box of a home. As the days went on we nursed these little plants, in disbelief that they were growing, and every time we went to check on them, there were more sprouts! By the end of the third week, we had almost 20 growing stocks of garlic. Faced with the same issue we had three weeks prior. What on earth are we going to do with these determined little buggers??
A few conversations more and a lot more skill applied. Kevin took up the task of building these garlic maniacs a forever home to grow in. Again with spare pieces of wood, and sheer determination with hand tools, we now had a beautiful deep planter box that would fit our garlic until the madness was over.
I honestly believe that our crisper drawer is possessed by some kind of garden ghost. No matter what we seem to put in there most of the time the leftover onion, garlic, even baby carrots for goodness sake start to grow roots! And yes, to answer your question we did plant the baby carrots and they also grew a crazy amount of roots and greens, but by the end of the summer, the baby carrots looked no bigger than the day they went into the ground. We were shocked that they made it that far in the first place! That is one thing I will miss when we move into our new property, I doubt the new crisper drawer will have the same mystical sprouting powers.
Back to the crazed ramblings of a garlic lover. We have been in the process of working with this garlic for about four months at this point. In their happy new home, we planted the garlic sprouts with the roots that ran end to end in the little planter box I made for them. I tell you, you could see the relief on the garlic when they saw that it was moving day! The transfer also gave us the opportunity to see if these little cloves of garlic were actually growing or just fooling us like the baby carrots. To our delight, we found strong smelling immature garlic bulbs that had mostly shaken off their previous form.
Another few months had passed and we ran into a problem everyone has been facing in the true north, or if you're into the realm of Game of Thrones, winter was coming. It was an odd thought trying to find a way to save our garlic when most people would be planting it at that time. Since we gave our garlic a weird start it only seemed fit to pause the project in a weird place. With our own personal move in the works, it was time to shut the garlic project down for the time being.
So now in the winter months, with snow firmly fixed to the ground for the foreseeable future months, we once again have an airtight container, with immature garlic, sprouting, in our crisper drawer. So far this little accidental project we started with two hardy, true north grown garlic bulbs, we got 17….that's right 17 sprouting immature garlic cloves with our short Canadian summers. At our new homestead, we will start up the project again most likely in the mid-spring.
Our hope with this project is that this year we will not only get full mature garlic bulbs, but also the garlic scapes which can be difficult to find but are awesome in the kitchen. So I leave you with this crazy story and hopefully next time someone offers you a beautiful gift grown from their own garden you hear me in the back of your mind telling you that you better have a two-year plan for that plant baby, because if you think you’ll use it all or not, nature will always find a way!