Where Did All My Garlic Go?
One of my favorite opera arias is from ‘Candide’ by Leonard Bernstein. The song starts with:
Life is happiness indeed
I have everything I need…
When things come together just like you plan them, the feeling is wonderful. And that is what has happened in our garden the past couple of years with garlic and tomatoes.
I plant garlic in October. It sprouts before Thanksgiving and gets a good head start on the following year’s growing season. In spring the plants get a light application of a balanced fertilizer (like 10-10-10). Any flower stalks that appear get removed to force the maximum amount of energy into the bulb. The harvest starts around Memorial Day (depending on the variety) when the foliage begins to droop or turn yellow.
Any loose dirt is removed from the bulbs, and they are dried thoroughly for a month or more in a tray that allows good air circulation. Then the bulbs are cleaned and trimmed, and stored in open-mesh sacks in a dry, well-ventilated area.
I start tomato plants from seed on March first. The tomato beds are covered with black plastic for a couple of weeks to warm the soil, then the transplants go into the garden April first. Water-filled plant protectors surround each plant for about 6 weeks, moderating both daytime and nighttime temperatures. Sturdy tomato cages are used for support. The plants are fertilized monthly with a soluble tomato fertilizer poured directly on the leaves. We usually pick our first tomato just after the Fourth of July.
So by early August not only is the garlic is ready to use, but we are awash in ripe tomatoes. We have everything we need! Happiness indeed! Production of roasted-tomato & garlic sauce begins. The sauce is easy to prepare:
Wash the tomatoes and garlic. Quarter the tomatoes and squeeze out as much of the seeds and juice as you can. Place the tomatoes on a foil-lined cookie sheet alongside 2 to 3 whole heads of garlic with the stems removed. Drizzle everything with olive oil (especially the garlic) and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 300F for 2 to 3 hours or until soft. Dump everything into a food mill and grind away until no more liquid comes out. Dump the solids left in the food mill into your compost bin.
This creates a concentrated sauce that we freeze in quart containers. Then in the middle of winter if you want roasted-tomato & garlic soup, just add chicken stock. Or use it directly (perhaps with a little reducing) on pasta. If your freezer runs at zero degrees the sauce will keep up to a year.
We continue to make batches of sauce until the tomato plants stop producing in fall. My wife prefers plum tomatoes for sauce production, as they have more flesh and less water than regular or beefsteak types.
Copies of previous articles on growing garlic and tomatoes are available by emailing a request to email@example.com.
I plant 2 pounds of garlic cloves each fall, and get about 9 pounds of useable garlic the following summer. It just doesn’t last long because most of it goes into this sauce. Perhaps I need to plant more!
Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828-456-3575. © 2012 NC State University.