The Champagne of Garlic: Vermont organic and local

Garlic is a popular harvest treat at Vermont farmers markets and road-side farm stands this month. For most of us, it’s all good garlic. For the discerning connoisseur, each part of the state produces subtly different regional garlic flavors.

In Europe, some of these types of unique flavors are protected. Like champagne, that only comes from the Champagne Region of northeastern France, produce can carry regional specificity called Protected Geographical Status. Gorgonzola, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago cheese, Camembert de Normandie are good examples of foods that can only be labelled as such if they come from the designated region. Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) are also designations of this kind of protection.

There are a number of Garlics with Protected Geographical Status in Europe; these include:

  • Aglio Bianco Polesano from Veneto, Italy
  • Aglio di Voghiera from Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
  • Ail blanc de Lomagne from Lomagne in the Gascony area of France
  • Ail de la Drôme from Drôme in France
  • Ail rose de Lautrec a rose/pink garlic from Lautrec in France
  • Ajo Morado de Las Pedroñeras a rose/pink garlic from Las Pedroñeras in Spain

At Green Mountain Garlic, we grow 11 varieties of hardneck garlic and 5 softnecks. While none of our varieties has Protected Geographical Status, each is unique in flavor, character and hardiness. Learn more about their distinctions here.

Whether or not you can taste the difference between garlic grown in Central Vermont and garlic grown in other parts of the country, keep in mind that organic is great and local is best.

 image credit: traumwerk.stanford.edu

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September at the Farm

Buckwheat cover crop in bloom

Sneezy and Oreo

 

Another load of garlic orders off to the Post Office

 

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More Help for Vermont Farmers after the floods of Hurricane Irene

The flash floods brought on by the tropical storms following Hurricane Irene added insult to injury in Vermont. Seven hundred homes reported damage before the post-Irene flash floods, that number is expected to rise as the waters recede. Barn and land damage tallies in Vermont are also growing. Many low lying farms, already compromised by the floods of Irene were threatened, damaged, and even destroyed by the subsequent flash flooding.

The unprecedented floods took over Vermont farm fields at peak season. A story on VPR yesterday put the farm loss estimate in the “several million dollars” range. Thousands of acres of corn (for feed and for people) were inundated, hundreds of acres of soybeans were flooded, 75 farms in Washington and Chittenden Counties alone have reported losses – some minor, others catastrophic. And it is still raining today.

According to Chuck Ross, the Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, “If it’s been underwater, you can’t use it.” The FDA spells it out in more detail:
“If the edible portion of a crop is exposed to flood waters, it is considered adulterated and should not enter human food channels. There is no practical method of reconditioning the edible portion of a crop that will provide a reasonable assurance of human food safety. Therefore, the FDA recommends that these crops be disposed of in a manner that ensures they are kept separate from crops that have not been flood damaged to avoid adulterating “clean” crops.”

For those farms affected by the floods, a stream of services and support follows the destruction.

NOFA lists the following potential sources of funds:

For those unaffected by the floods, NOFA recommends: If you know a farmer who has been impacted, volunteer to help muck out their barn, pull up downed fence, bring in flooded produce, or even make dinner. If you don’t know any farmers personally but would like to volunteer, try listing with #VTResponse.

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Crop Mobs save Vermont Farms in the Wake of Hurricane Irene

While the Green Mountain State was ravaged by Hurricane Irene, we held our breath at Green Mountain Garlic. Luckily, the Garlic Farm weathered the storm very well. When we see the devastation across Vermont we cannot be more grateful for our good fortune this year. But the storm took a huge toll on many small farms – just at the beginning of their harvest.

The call went out for help harvesting as the waters rose and Crop Mobs appeared out of the mud and rain as if by magic. You’ve heard of Flash Mobs like the Hallelujah Chorus in a food court or the Michael Jackson Dance Tribute in Stockholm, well imagine volunteers from all walks of life in mud boots and raincoats rescuing livestock and vegetables as the flood waters rise, and you’ll get an idea of what an incredible community Vermonter is in a disaster.

Crop Mobs are usually made up of Wannabe farmers who volunteer their time to help out farms in need. In exchange the Crop Mobber learns farming skills and gets the satisfaction of being a good citizen. It’s like a short-term WWOOF program.

Fundraisers, FaceBook pages and Website already abound online. So even if you are trapped at your desk and can’t get out there and get dirty helping your neighborhood farmers, you can make a big difference. Take a look:

  • Vermont Response – helping Vermonters help Vermonters
  • VT Irene Flood Relief Fund – Helping Vermont’s small businesses hit by Irene
  • Waterybury’s Hen of the Wood hosted a sold-out Gnocchi Dinner – all proceeds going to the Waterbury Good Neighbor Fund
  • Montpelier’s Dog River Farm is organizing a clean-up-and-wash-the-harvest crew  this Saturday at 10 AM (Route 12, South of Montpelier)
  • A Recovery Fund has been established to help Intervale Farmers, right on the raging Winooski River
  • Youo can text FOODNOW to 52000 and the Vermont Foodbank will turn your $10 donation into $60 in groceries for families in need
  • Seven Days published a How-To-Help-VT page
  • NOFA Vermont (Northeast Organic Farming Association) is accepting donations
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How are you going to store the fruits of the 2011 Garlic Season?

Now that you’ve stuffed your pockets, buckets, backpacks, purses, suitcases, hats and  baskets with as much organic Vermont Garlic as you possibly can, what are you going to do with it all? Storing garlic makes a huge difference in the liveliness and longevity of your favorite bulb.

Store garlic unpeeled and uncovered in a cool, dark place. Use our breathable terracotta garlic keeper or a wire mesh basket, You can also use a paper bag, egg carton, or mesh bag – just make sure your garlic has plenty of air and is not exposed to direct sunlight.

Don’t be tempted to use the crisper drawer in your fridge – in this case it is a misnomer. The cold will tarnish the flavor and texture of your garlic. For the same reasons, freezing garlic is also not recommended.

Many garlic lovers are tempted to store their garlic in olive oil. After all what better combo is there? But be forewarned! Garlic, being a tuber grown in soil, can contain the bacteria “Clostridium Botulinum.” The olive oil seals off air from the garlic, thus creating a great environment for botulism – an anaerobic bacteria. When infusing olive oil with garlic, use the same precautions you would when canning any vegetable: sterilize first. Most chefs recommend cooking the garlic and olive oil together (at 200 degrees or more) for several minutes before saving it as an infusion. Read more about the safe way to infuse your olive oil with garlic.

Dehydrating garlic is a great way to preserve extra garlic. Use your dehydrator or a 150 degree oven. Grind and sprinkle as necessary to add a bit of garlic to your favorite dishes – note dehydrated garlic is milder and somewhat sweeter than fresh garlic.

Of course the best flavor comes from fresh cloves.

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Vermont Foodies Celebrate the Harvest Season

Perfectly poised on the heels of the Vermont garlic harvest season is the Food Festival Season. Foodies drool as the season commences with the Vermont Fresh Network event at Shelburne Farms.

The Vermont Fresh Network brings farmers and chefs together to build partnerships and amazing meals. The quality of life here in Vermont and the beauty of our landscape depend a great deal on the success of these relationships and the existence of sustainable small farms. These regional connections contribute to stronger local communities, their economies and gastronomies (even if that is not exactly a word).

It is no surprise that the event at the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms is called the tastiest culinary and agricultural event of the season. It brings together great food and great chefs. The theme this year was “An Edible Journey through Vermont’s Foodways,” exploring the path of local agricultural products from field to fork.

Green Mountain Garlic is a member of the Vermont Fresh Network. Their garlic enlivens the entrées at chef-owned Michael’s on the Hill in Waterbury Center and at  Hen of the Wood in Waterbury.

Next Up on the Vermont Food Festival Circuit are:

If none of these festivals fit into your busy late summer schedule, create your own local food festival by booking a farm tour, or just stopping by the Garlic Farm for a visit.

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What to do with too much zucchini? Add Garlic, of course

Garlic can add interest to any vegetable – even zucchini. On the eve of National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Night (yes it is a real national holiday, ask any Vermont gardener), it is appropriate that we celebrate the green bounty of the garden with garlic recipes.

Of course garlic and zucchini make great bed fellows and are divine with pasta – sauté shredded zucchini and ample garlic in olive oil, toss with al dente spaghetti, shaved Parmesan and hot pepper flakes – but there are many other great ways to combine these marvels of the Vermont harvest. Here are some other Zucchini/Garlic recipes that might ease your abundance:

Garlic Scapes, Zucchini, Corn, and Ginger Fried Rice
Grilled Zucchini with Garlic and Lemon Butter Baste
Roasted Zucchini with Garlic

Kathy Gunst’s Chilled Zucchini Soup from “Zucchini the Orphan of the Vegetable World” merits full exposure here:

Make the soup several hours ahead of time to leave time to chill properly.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 pounds zucchini, chopped
1/3 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Optional: 12 cup cream, creme fraiche or yogurt

In a large pot heat half the oil and add the onion, over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, the chives and half the basil. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, raise the heat to high, and let cook about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil; cook 3 minutes. Add stock, bring to a boil, and cook over low heat, partially covered, for about 15 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender. Remove from heat and add remaining basil.

Puree in a blender or food processor and add to a large bowl. Chill for several hours. Serve cold with a dollop of cream, creme fraiche or yogurt. Serves 8

Zucchini’s proclivity for profusion is known far and wide: A Google search for “how to give away zucchini” yields almost 3 Million results;  Garrison Keillor says that this season is the only time of year when country people lock their cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t leave gifts of zucchini on the front seats; Free Zucchini lines the back roads of Vermont.

National Garlic Day is April 19th. Mark your calendars…You wont have to lock your cars.

image credit: simplyrecipes.com

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The Vermont Garlic Harvest

The Vermont Garlic HarvestGarlic is planted in the fall. Because the crop is hidden underground, it remains a bit of a mystery until harvest time. This is part of why each garlic harvest is accompanied by a great deal of anticipation and often followed by a great deal of celebration (garlic festivals are a popular late summer entertainment all over the world).

The garlic harvest here at Green Mountain Garlic is in full swing. Here’s how it works: Once the leaves start to brown, we cut back on watering. Garlic plants do not like to have soggy feet. When half to two-thirds of the leaves have browned and died off, we check a few bulbs to make sure the bulbs have reached a good size. When they look good, the harvest begins.

We loosen the soil around the bulbs and gently remove them from the ground. Garlic bruises easily so, we take good care and harvest by hand. Garlic is susceptible to sunburn, so we don’t leave it in direct sunlight. Once we bring it in from the field, we hang the garlic in our barn to drydown or cure. The barn is specifically designed to have good air circulation for this purpose.

Garlic is best when cured gradually at temperatures closely resembling those found a few inches under the ground where the garlic was grown. As the garlic cures, excess moisture from the roots and leaves evaporates or draws into the bulb.

Some of  the biggest and best cloves from the harvest will be used as the start of next year’s crop and some will make it to dinner tables across Vermont and New England.

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Green Mountain Garlic Harvest – Take a Look at Your Local VT Garlic Growers in Action

One of them is worth a thousand words… Here is a slide show from our first, much anticipated Organic Garlic Harvest! Join us

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WWOOF-USA: Green Mountain Garlic is your summer home in Vermont

Our WWOOFer Maggie and our Woofer Abby at Green Mountain Garlic

WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It is part of an international effort to link volunteers with organic farmers. Green Mountain Garlic is a WWOOF-USA host farm.

Here’s how it works: volunteers trade a half-day of farm labor for housing and food. The WWOOF program is a wonderful symbiotic relationship: the host gets needed help on the farm, the volunteer gets a great place to enjoy the summer.

For the adventurous, eco-minded traveler, farm stays have become the summer vacation of choice. WWOOF volunteers are from all over the world and all different walks of life. From the business executive who needs a reality check to the new high school grad who needs to leave the nest, WWOOF provides a great opportunity to get back to the land and enjoy some fresh air.

The length of a farm stay is determined by the volunteer and the host; stays can vary from a few days to an entire season.

The goal of WWOOF is to strengthen sustainable agriculture worldwide by promoting an educational exchange, and building a global community conscious of ecological farming practices. The common results of the program are lasting friendships and life-changing experiences – all centered on organic food!

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