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Planting with the Rain


Sandhill Farms 2011 Field Report

A brand new day at Sandhill Farms

  • The Land
With the Summer Solstice just two days away, June 19th at Sandhill Farms feels more like mid-March than nearly-summer. Blustery east winds, thunderstorms and a forecasted high of 49 degrees reminds me that we are farming in the Wasatch Mountains. The gorgeous, wise and deep green Wasatch Mountains. The season’s record breaking April and May rainfall amounts have not deterred the migrational wildlife from their cyclical return to the marshlands just steps from the garlic fields. Sandhill Cranes are again soaring over the farm at sunset and sunrise, their hatched babies now big enough to be left alone during the day. Two fuzzy-gray Blue Heron chicks squawk from the cottonwood tree nest, pelicans circle in the morning thermals and beavers smack their tales as warning signs from the willows. The Land is alive with beauty.
        Pelicans soar in the garlic-scented thermals (www.katigreaneyphotography.com)

  • The Farm

As a planter of seeds and encourager of healthy crops, few things are more rewarding to a farmer than planting with the natural irrigation system – rain. In dry, arid-land climates and without drip-irrigation or overheard sprinklers, farmers around the world rely on their highly-attuned weather awareness, and planting with the spring or summer rains can mean success or failure for the season. I’m not claiming to be a highly-attuned weather intuitive, but this weekend I got lucky here at Sandhill Farms, planting for 14 hours straight over 10,000 seeds and finishing just hours before the first south winds hinted at the cold front which now brings rain to the fields.

Tres Hermanas  y Jirasols

  • The Food
With four more weeks until Sandhill Farms hosts the first Utah Outstanding in the Field Farm Dining event with Mike Richey of Pago Restaurant (http://outstandinginthefield.com) this is what’s growing on in the fields: Italian Genovese Basil, Heirloom Fava Beans, Fresh Green Garlic, edible nasturtiums, mountain chives, golden chard and more…

Enjoy the growth of June. We are now taking 2011 Gourmet Culinary Garlic orders at http://www.sandhillfarms.org. Order early, we will sell out.

Garlic puts a smile on my face… everyday.

Cuban Garlic and Sustainable Agriculture

Ajo Criolla Braid in Cienfuegos, Cuba

Dear Garlic loving friends,

Today is February 27, 2011 and one meter of snow still covers the rows of Armenian, Fish Lake Porcelain and Inchelium Red here at Sandhill Farms in Eden, Utah. My wife Kati and I are preparing to return to Cuba as professional agroecologists (and garlic researchers) from March 6 through April 15.

We first visited Cuba in the late fall as participants in an education delegation in Cuban Sustainable Farming and Organic Gardening through Global Exchange (http://www.globalexchange.org/countries/americas/cuba/sustainable/index.html). In addition to learning about a fascinating culture of sustainable agriculture from extremely educated farmers and gardeners, we learned Cubans love their Ajo (Garlic).

Most Cubans we met, when somehow garlic became the subject of conversation, would tell us what has to be the most well-know green medicine recipe on the island. “First, you take one bulb of Ajo Criollo and separate the cloves. Peel the cloves and drop them into a bottle of Havana Club white rum. Let the cloves soak in the rum for 9 days. Then, every morning, take a small sip of this natural medicine. This is how we do it in Cuba.” We were told this medicinal mixture helped improve circulation, bone health and joint functioning as well as enhancing overall well-being.

A future onion and garlic grower? in Banao, Cuba

When we ended up in the mountainous hills and farmland of Banao, we understood that Cubans truly are Garlic lovers. Fields after rolling emerald fields sprouted in beautiful rows of Caribbean Garlic, proof that the pungent mountain herb, with origins in a land far to the north of Cuba, can adapt to the tropics and thrive.

Ajo Criollo is spicy, peppery and long lasting in flavor. Bulbs are generally small, tight and compact with about 12-18 small crescent cloves per bulb. We planted a few Sandhill Farms porcelain strains into the red, rich Cuban soil and we will be excited to participate in the harvest this March. Cuban Ajo is planted in November and harvested in late March.

Have a great spring equinox and keep in touch as we travel to Cuba and learn more about Garlic, the Blessed Bulb. This is Farmer Pete, signing out, for The Garlic Report.

Banao's Fertile, composted fields, cultivated by oxen and planted in onions and ajo.

 

The Journey of Garlic

The journey of Garlic begins long, long ago in the mountainous soils of south-central Asia. Tucked into a narrow ravine of the Hindu Kush Mountains, wild Garlic holds ancestral roots to a dramatic land. Windswept winters and scorching summer sun influenced wild Garlic’s development. Above ground, the Garlic plant exhibits astounding beauty – symmetrical spear-shaped leaves of emerald green. Below ground, hidden from sight, lay Garlic’s jewel – a pungent bulb of crescent cloves sometimes covered by a delicate wrapper glazed purple by elements in the soil.

Over time, wild Garlic captured the fascination of Nomadic cultures who would begin to understand the diverse and effective medicinal values of this plant, as well as Garlic’s long store-ability, relative ease of propagation and the bulb’s versatility as a rich, earthy, heat-inducing culinary herb. Garlic’s journey changed courses forever when ancient civilizations began to consume, cultivate and trade this blessed bulb. The earliest cultures of modern day India, China and Egypt were among the first to honor and celebrate Garlic as an important cultural crop. Sanskrit scrolls record Garlic’s earliest uses as a medicinal herb (The Bower Manuscript) and the Egyptian King Tutenkaman was buried with bulbs of garlic alongside other precious gems. The earliest Greek and Roman physicians touted garlic as a cure-all herb. Garlic bulbs are like vessels, transporting a unique story of people and plants that began perhaps 10,000 years ago. Each spring garlic sprouts emerge, on terraced gardens overlooking the sea, in backyard plots and in fertile mountain valleys. From season to season, generation to generation, Garlic’s journey will continue.

At Sandhill Farms in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, we feel honored for the opportunity to celebrate, preserve and spread the seeds of garlic crop diversity. Our living “garlic seed bank” currently includes over 20 strains such as Armenian, Thai Fire, Minho, Siberian and Inchelium Red. Each year we search for strains to add to our growing garlic collection. We love Garlic and are excited to connect with both experienced and beginner garlic enthusiasts. Whether you are a gardener seeking rare, gourmet planting garlic, or you are a culinary magician searching for unique and diverse Garlic flavors, we are eager to assist in your own Garlic Journey. Although snow still covers the planted cloves here at Sandhill Farms, we are excited for a new season of green growth, harvest celebrations, seed trading and Garlic planting. Until that time, we are patient farmers on a winter land, waiting for Garlic’s Spring Emergence…

For the Love of Garlic

Welcome to The Garlic Report.

My name is Pete Rasmussen and I am in love with all things garlic, and I know I’m not the only one.  At Sandhill Farms in the Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah, we are growers and collectors of rare, medicinal heirloom garlic strains from around the world.

The purpose of The Garlic Report will be to follow the herb’s seasonal growth cycle at Sandhill Farms as well as to share stories and images of fellow garlic lovers from both regional and international locations. We look forward to hearing your garlic comments and sharing the excitement and reverence we have – for the love of Garlic.

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