We moved to Missoula last year just a few days after pulling our garlic from the ground in Oregon. We packed two burlap coffee sacks with green garlic and stuffed them into the U-Haul as the final cargo. Opening the door of that moving van when we arrived unleashed a powerful and unique smell mixture: garlic, green coffee beans, and waste vegetable oil (fuel for our car). We hung it to finish curing in the entryway of our small summer sublet apartment.
When it came time to plant garlic last fall, we realized we wanted a crop a good bit larger than what we could spare from our own stocks without being garlic-poor all winter. We also though it would be good to get something we knew for sure could handle a solid Montana winter. We got a gift of a mix of hardneck varieties from some friends in Wisconsin who came to visit and even helped us plant last fall.
We also asked around for good varieties and good deals from local farmers and were lucky to get ahold of Josh Slotnick just after his crew had planted their garlic at the PEAS Farm, and he gave us a great deal on ten pounds of seed garlic. He had to think hard about what variety it might have started out as, and we’re still not sure. He’s been saving the best cloves to replant each year for so long--more than fifteen years--that we just knew it must be pretty well adapted to our area. It's a softneck, which makes it good for long storage. The Wisconsin garlic blend were hardnecks--larger cloves with stronger flavors that have added a powerful kick to our pestos this summer.
If you got a bulb of garlic in your last coffee mailing, it was one of those Missoula softnecks. We tucked the gifts into the boxes with the special satisfaction of sharing something straight from the soil here. It grew in the smaller of our two gardens all summer, the first thing that went into the ground in our time on this farm, and the first thing to emerge as a sign of spring. It cured and dried in the hayloft of the barn this summer and hadn't left the farm till it went to the post office in your box. It's wonderful to cook with of course, but if you haven't eaten the whole bulb yet, consider planting a clove or two for your next summer. It's garlic planting time in much of the US; we'll be getting ours into the ground again sometime soon. We might branch out to a few different known-and-named varieties, but we’ll also stick with some of our unnamed gift varieties that allowed us to store up our largest garlic harvest yet, this year.