by Mike Ostlie with help from Lindsay Ostlie
Garlic planting for 2018 was done last fall, yet now might be the best time to reflect on some of the things we learned about planting during the 2017 season. We conducted a small study this last year (planted in the fall of 2016) relating to different things that we wonder about while planting. Specifically, we were wondering about the consequence of planting wrong. We know that we should be planting the largest cloves to get the largest bulbs and we have been told that we should be planting the cloves upright.
These are important recommendations to test in North Dakota because following these guidelines adds a lot of time to growing garlic. For instance, we spend time grading the garlic so that we select the largest bulbs for planting. We also spend time selecting the largest cloves from the largest bulbs. The smaller cloves are not planted to increase the average size/bulb. Planting orientation also adds time to the planting process and it is a potential barrier to mechanized planting. Right now, we hand plant every clove to make sure the cloves are oriented properly. However, achieving this uniform orientation on a large scale with a mechanical planter would be difficult.
The variety we used for the trial was Music. The planting orientations used were 1) upright, 2) upside down, 3) belly up, 4) belly down. If you’ve ever planted garlic I think you know what I mean by “belly” up or down. We had 15 cloves of each direction. To test clove size, we sorted garlic into three groups based on clove size so we had small, medium and large cloves. We also tested cloves with broken skins, and cloves that had gotten discolored by sunlight. The results were interesting:
Planted upside down
Planted Belly down
Planted Belly up
Upside-down cloves did not affect yield much. There was less than 3% difference in weight compared to an upright clove. The most surprising thing was that cloves planted belly up performed 15% better than cloves planted upright. WOW! We were not expecting that result. Of course, yield is only part of the story as planting orientation also affects the bulb shape. Here are some pictures of the bulbs based on their orientation. The upside-down bulbs would probably be more difficult to market, though they make good troll heads.
The clove size study went more like expected. There was a pretty clear trend for larger cloves producing larger bulbs. We didn’t see any negative consequence from planting partially peeled cloves. Discolored cloves seem to be fine too.
© This information is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without permission.
by Lindsay Ostlie
It is that time of year. The time to update our records and reflect on the past year before starting anew. The time to sift through the rubble of the overlooked-like my expired driver's license.
Let us all hold on to the things we hold most dear. To appreciate the good and accept the rest. Go on…
Make a mess.
Find beauty in the chaos.
Learn something new.
One person, one step at a time.
Let our common values unite us.
We hope to see you in 2018!
I know you haven't heard from us in awhile. On the one hand I have been waiting for something newsworthy to come along, and on the other, we just needed a little break while the "September plague" made its rounds through the family and we had to take care of some non-business business.
But we are still up and running here-making our plans for the rest of the season. We still have a lot garlic for sale and soon....very soon....HOPS PELLETS!
We will be winterizing and shutting down the farm store soon, but we are planning to have an end of the season event October 14 so stayed tuned for more info on that.
After we shut the store down for the season, we are planning to try taking this show on the road for the Jamestown Pride of Dakota Harvest Show event so you can find us there too. We are excited to join the Pride of Dakota and have some other new products in the works that we can hopefully have available for the show.
Many have been eagerly awaiting the availability of our pelleted hops so I am very happy to finally have them available. However, first I would like to tell you about the journey from hops cones to pellets.
After harvest, the cones need to be dried down before they are ready to process. This requires pretty close monitoring as hops that are too wet or too dry will suffer in quality. We now have a hops moisture tester, and next year will be offering hops moisture testing services. Drying takes only a few days, and we use no heat to preserve the delicate oils in the hops.
We follow the "Best Practice Guide for Hops Processing" in our facility. This lays out everything from the design of the facility to instructions for the handling and storage of the hops, to what kind of packaging and labels should be used.
Once all the hops are dried, we move straight to pelleting. Earlier varieties are kept in cold storage until pelleting if necessary.
We spend many hours getting everything set up, greasing the machines, and getting all the tools and supplies assembled we will need for the job.
When the preparations are ready, we grind the hops in the hammermill. After grinding, they immediately go into the pelletizer. The pellets chug out low and slow to stay below the temperature threshold that degrades quality, and are cooled for a short period before packaging.
We vacuum package the hops in heavy duty mylarfoil bags with a Nitrogen gas flush. This year, we did mostly 3-lb or 1-lb (brewery) bags and 1.5 oz (home brewer) bags. A sample of each variety is set aside to for quality testing. We send our samples to a lab in Washington.
With the hops packaged and tucked away in the freezer we wait.
AND EAGERLY KEEP CHECKING FOR LAB RESULTS.....
And today they came! Whether from having more mature plants or from better handling and packaging on our part or both, I am very proud to see our quality levels are mostly on-par with the expected range for the given varieties.
So as soon as possible I will be printing and applying our moisture-resistant labels to the packages and making our hops available for sale on our website. Here are the varieties we have available:
We are idea people. If you are an idea person you know that some ideas don't need a reason to be. They need to happen "just because." So when Mike looked at me with a straight face and said very earnestly "Lindsay we need to grow blue potatoes so we can make purple lefse," I didn't ask why. It seemed like it was very important to him.
Our first stab at growing them was last year. It was very dry, we didn't irrigate and they just didn't turn out. The skins were nasty and they were so tiny that by the time I peeled them there wasn't much left. I ended up throwing most of them.
So this year we tried again. In the disorder of springtime we somehow ended up planting double the amount of blue potatoes we intended to plant. We had an outstanding crop-thus we now have A-LOT of blue potatoes.
The origin of the potato species is in south america-present day peru and bolivia
What is the deal with blue potatoes anyway? Well actually they appear more purple than blue. I made this recipe for Blue Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic. I stuck pretty close to the recipe but ended up seasoning it up a bit more to my liking. As far as we could tell they tasted the same as regular mashed potatoes-they were just purple. The kids liked that. The purple color also reflects a higher antioxidant content than your typical white fleshed potatoes.
So now we have leftover blue mashed potatoes, which is a great starting point for lefse. We stand at the brink of achieving our noble goal-the elusive purple lefse. Last night we excitedly discussed the many unknowns....Will the dough roll out properly? Will the texture be the same? Will it maintain its color through cooking? WE JUST DON'T KNOW! I know you all can't wait for some purple lefse and I hate to leave you hanging on a cliff but you will just have to wait to find out.
The summer is sure flying by fast. I just thought I would post a quick note about our season's progress. We are clipping the last of our garlic scapes, so garlic harvest is just around the corner. We have also harvested our haskaps and the Juneberries are ripening too. The hops are still growing like crazy and are starting to fill out. Hoping for a big harvest.
Speaking of harvest, we were able to spend or Memorial Day weekend picking up a hops harvester. We are hoping to put that to good use this year; including a demonstration at our "Hops Harvestour". Stay tuned for more information as we finalize the plans for this event, which will the last weekend in August.
Last spring I planted a decorative herb garden in a large pyramid-style planter. Later in the year, we discovered it was smack dab over our septic tank access. Because, you know, of our entire 36 acres I just had to put it right there. Murphy's law is always in effect here. So I had to rip it out and painstakingly move all my perennial herbs. The peppermint, lemon balm, and tarragon all came back; as well as the catmints that were already planted in my flower bed.
The herbs that survived the move are looking pretty good already. It is nice to have something fresh available while the rest of the garden is still small. The most common ways I use herbs are for cooking, making tea, and mixing drinks. Here is some more info about working with herbs, as well as some recipes for the herbs we have available for sale.
Storing Fresh Herbs
Most herbs will store better in the fridge. The exception would be basil, which likes to be stored at around 50 degrees. Basil might do better on your counter, displayed in a pretty vase. Most herbs will also store better if you put the stems in a bit of water. Just be sure to change the water frequently and remove any leaves that are below the water level like you would a floral bouquet. There are lots of nifty herb keepers available if you are really into herbs but a mason jar with a lid will work just fine too.
Cooking with Fresh Herbs
A lot of herbs have tough stems so removing them before using is usually a good idea. I have seen fancy herb stripper/choppers at kitchen stores if you are into kitchen gadgets but it is easy enough to do by hand. To strip off leaves, first chop off the leaves at the tip; grasp the stem at the top and run your hand down the stem against the growth of the leaves. They should pull right off. To chop, keep gathering the leaves into bundles and chop into tiny pieces.
This is a good salad dressing and also a delicious marinade for pork chops.
1 c apple cider vinegar
2 T dijon mustard
1/4 c lemon juice
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1/2 c olive oil
3 T chopped fresh Tarragon
Catmint makes a good tea and the flowers are also edible. Lemonbalm has a lemony flavor and is good for tea and cooking as well. Both are said to have a relaxing effect. To make tea, use 2 teaspoons fresh herbs per cup of water. Boil the water, and let the leaves infuse in a covered vessel for 10 minutes.
A mojito just isn't a mojito without mint right?
1 t sugar
2 oz rum
Squeeze lime into a glass, add sugar and mint. Stir until sugar dissolves. Fill glass with ice and add rum. Top off with a bit of club soda and give it a stir.
With March beginning many people will get into the spring planting spirit. Just like ordering your favorite vegetable, fruit, or flower variety, it's best to order hops ahead of time to ensure you get what you want. For the more common varieties rhizomes will probably be available from somewhere for most of the early season. This is fine if you are looking to plant just a few plants. The germination on rhizomes is not guaranteed so people will often plant two rhizomes in one hill to make sure at least one grows. We planted live plants with our large scale planting. As long as they are watered, they will establish nearly 100% of the time, so only one per hill is needed.
Here are a few tips that we picked up along the way:
-for first year hops, you don't need a huge trellis. A 10 or so foot high trellis is technically enough
-get your irrigation figured out before you plant. Hops use a lot of water and your irrigation setup may affect how you arrange your rows or plants
-Don't rush the planting. We learned the hard way that you should just wait until the threat of frost has past. Rhizomes should handle a late frost a little better, but freshly transplanted live plants don't like to freeze.
-We sourced our live plants from Great Lakes Hops and had good luck with them. There are only a few other live plant vendors, but rhizomes are available from quite a few places.
-Put a lot of thought into the varieties you want. If you are a homebrewer, make sure to plant what you actually want to use. If you are growing to sell, make sure that somebody wants to buy that variety. Some varieties are in demand, others are not. Three pretty safe bets are Cascade, Chinook, and Centennial.
There are a lot of things to think about when planting new hops. Michigan State University has a lot of good information about small scale hops production. Make sure to do your research before starting; otherwise you could make some costly mistakes that are hard to recover from.
written by Lindsay
When it comes to storing garlic, there seems to be an inverse relationship between flavor and storage. We have found anecdotally that some of the best flavored varieties just don't store as long. Russian Red is one that comes to mind. Heralded as one of the best flavors, it just doesn't store as well. So we try to eat that one first. As I was ruffling through our stores lately I noticed the porcelain varieties, Music in particular, still looked good. So my first tip in garlic storage is to pick the right varieties.
The ideal storage conditions for our hardneck garlic are COOL (50-60 degrees is ideal), DARK, and WELL VENTILATED. I do not recommend putting them in the fridge as it will mimic the natural winter vernalization and actually trigger them to grow, as will light. (FYI: Garlic you see stored in coolers has usually been chemically treated to prevent sprouting.) Storing them where there is little air flow will cause moisture buildup, which encourages mold growth and early spoilage. Never vacuum seal or store in plastic bags.
The garlic bulbs continue to transpire when stored so you will notice they shrink away from the wrappers and become easier to peel over time. They are still edible if sprouted, but use your own judgement on that. Also, the garlic will store much, much longer if you leave the outer bulb wrapper on until you are ready to use it. Our customers have told us that our garlic stored well up to a year, however the peak storage time is generally considered to end at the beginning of the year for hardneck garlic. That is why I am writing this tutorial on how to freeze garlic-do it while it is still good.
Probably like you, our storage setup isn't ideal. Climate-controlled storage is on our to-do list but won't be ready until next year's harvest so you just gotta make the best of what you have. It is getting to be that time of the winter that the quality of some of our stored produce is starting to decline. I had to throw some of our squash, the rest I cooked up and froze. Our onions have been eaten or went bad. What remains are some taters and of course, garlic.
I told myself I would deal with the garlic after the holidays and after checking on things this past weekend I decided it was time. We had quite a few cloves that were broken apart since planting (we selected the best cloves for planting and saved the rest for eating) and they don't store as well that way. This is the method I use to preserve garlic and get it in a super easy form to use for cooking:
Frozen Garlic Cubes
1. Peel the garlic
Method 1 (preferred): Place bowl full of garlic and paring knife in front of husband while he is watching football. Resume other activity while he makes himself useful.
Method 2: Use a hard object like the bottom of a heavy glass to smash the cloves and the skin will come off easily.
2. Pulse in food processor or blender
I have yet to find one of these that can take my abuse for more than a couple years but right now I have a Ninja and it seems to be holding up OK (besides my breaking one of the bowls the first time I used it-warranty replaced it). Add enough olive oil to coat the cloves. They shouldn't be submerged or anything, just coated. Pulse until garlic is minced to desired consistency.
3.Put into ice cube trays
I found a tray with a somewhat smaller cubes that works well. Use a rubber spatula to stuff the garlic into the compartments so it doesn't just crumble apart once frozen. Cover with some saran wrap and stick it into the freezer for a few hours.
4. Transfer to freezer-safe container
Once the cubes are frozen remove from tray and place into a resealable freezer safe container like a ziploc bag or mason jar. Label and date. Keep it in your kitchen freezer and it will be conveniently ready for cooking when you need it!
This method rocks for preserving garlic-it is just as easy to use as the chopped garlic in the jar that I used to buy before I started growing my own garlic and realized how much more flavorful it is. You can throw a cube into your saute pan while it is heating, add to soups, or microwave for a few seconds and mix it into dishes.
We recently saw an article floating around that described the higher quality of California garlic versus imported (from China) garlic. One of the key ways to quantify that is by using the Brix test. This is a method for testing dissolved solids. This is often used by wine or beer makers to determine sugar content or for calculating specific gravity. For just a few dollars people have been purchasing refractometers (the tool used to measure Brix) to compare vegetable and fruit quality from different sources. Most fruit and vegetables have Brix values between 4 and 12.
We thought it would be interesting to do some of these comparisons with garlic. We squeezed what liquid we could from a garlic clove, but our refractometer did not register a value. With a little research we found that garlic values typically range from 30-50, which was higher than our instrument could read. We were able to take advantage of a online sale of a special refractometer that reads up to 80. We were back in business. Here are the results from testing our garlic varieties plus comparison to California and China garlic from the grocery store.
You may not remember which varieties belong to which family, but in general, the porcelain varieties had the highest Brix values (Georgia Fire, Leningrad, Music, German Extra Hardy, and Georgia Crystal). So it is possible that Brix values differ by garlic family, a hypothesis we will be testing over time. The California garlic performed well, but we don't know the variety so it is hard to know if it is a fair comparison to our garlic (if the BRIX does vary by variety). However, clearly there was a huge difference in Brix readings between the Chinese garlic and the US-grown garlic.
The significance of Brix is that it is thought to indicate higher quality through a higher concentration of dissolved solids, which includes not only sugar but vitamins, minerals and other healthy compounds. This does not necessarily mean the Chinese garlic is bad. It may mean that the garlic from China has been in storage longer and the quality has diminished with time. The difference in growing practices may also be responsible for the difference in Brix. What we have generally found with our home research on Brix readings is the closer the food source, the higher the Brix reading; another reason to buy locally.