Meanwhile, back on the farm: Planting 8,000 Garlic Cloves

My parents’ farm in Wisconsin. It’s the most peaceful, serene, slow, grounding, inspiring place I know. It has its own bit of magic going on. My brother Ben. He is smart, thoughtful, industrious, creative, inspiring. He has his own bit of magic going on too. Anyone who knows him knows this is true. I recently heard he was planting thousands of garlic bulbs at my parents’ farm. I was intrigued. I was curious. I was confused. I had to get the story. I found the epitome of slow in this endeavor: a patient man on a peaceful farm planting a slow crop.

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Inchelium Red, Georgian Crystal, Early Italian, Italian Late, Northern White, Armenian, Music, Romanian Red, and Chesnok Red. Garlic. Who knew it came in so many varieties and with such a rich history? It all began in Soviet Central Asia. The birthplace of garlic. The mother of this magnificent plant that is used in so many meals, and so taken for granted. And when the Soviet Union opened up in 1989, garlic aficionados flocked in to gather rare heirloom garlic plants to grow elsewhere. The birthplace of garlic was finally made available to all, including the farm in Cottage Grove.

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Garlic is a slow crop. This year on the farm, Ben decided to plant 8,000 bulbs in an effort to create a seed stock and to have enough garlic to last the entire year. (I imagine he will have enough to share.) He gathered a team of 6 family members and friends and went to work planting 8,000 plants – carefully breaking apart the bulbs and meticulously burying them in their designated rows. The garlic bulbs they planted were all initially grown using organic methods, and the garlic that will grow from these bulbs will be grown using organic methods. I love that.

But this garlic growing is slow business. It’s slow business over a long winter that seeps into spring and rolls into summer. The garlic will be ready in the humid, hot, late weeks of July. These 8,000 bulbs will lay low, taking their slow, sweet time growing, multiplying until they are ready to harvest.

We cook a lot in our house. It’s an event every night. It’s a chance to slow down, to be creative, to spend time together, to make something healthy and delicious. We use a lot of garlic, nearly every day we cook with it. We love garlic. It’s so simple, so flexible, so tasty. I probably take it for granted. I never thought very much about it until now…Until The Great Garlic Planting of 2014. And I am really looking forward to The Great Garlic Harvest of 2015. I can’t wait to try all of these varieties.

There is surely something beautiful about growing your own food. There's something satisfying about putting time, thought, energy, focus, hard work, and care into cultivating the food you eat and the food you feed your family. This is a beauty not lost on the farm in Cottage Grove. And it requires you to slow down, to be patient, to wait until the weather is just right for planting, and then to wait yet again, patiently, for weeks, months, seasons to pass until your carefully planted seeds or bulbs are ready for harvest. For, truly, this process is the epitome of slow, in one of its most beautiful forms.