Gourmet garlic sprouts on London area farm

 
 Messenger photos by Mike Munden

Lowell and Julie Frederick stand together in their garlic field at their home north of London. For more photos from the farm, go to www.columbusmessenger.com.

Julie Frederick was born on Halloween in a town called Salem and she calls her secret mix her “witch’s brew.” She dispels the mystery, though, by explaining it was Salem, Va., and the “brew” is her scientific approach to growing gourmet garlic on a farm on Route 38, north of London.

It’s a combination of quality seed bulbs, organic growing practices and lots of hands-on labor. Her “brew” is a top dressing fertilizer she spread on the soil before and after planting the bulbs last fall. She never uses chemical pesticides or manure for fertilizer.

Julie and her husband, Lowell, moved to Madison County from Kalispell, Mont., in February 2007.  They grew vegetables last summer, but this is their first year operating their business, Nature’s Wisdom Garlic. They will harvest their first crop in mid- to late-July.

The garlic will tell them when it is ready. The 18-inch leaves, which look like they belong to large green onions, will die back 40 percent from the ground up, leaving the top 60 percent of the leaves still green. Then the garlic is dug by hand, never pulled which could rip the leaves.

The leaves will stay connected to the garlic bulbs as they dry on racks in the garage-turned-curing-room.  The temperature will be controlled at 55 degrees and the humidity at 60 percent.

 
Braided garlic can last up to a year.
 
This bucket full of scapes, garlic seed pods, will be used to make pesto, a, spreadable paste.

After they are dry, some of the leaves will be braided to create hanging bunches of garlic to be sold. Braided garlic lasts up to a year, Julie said.

Other products she makes include dry garlic powder, garlic salt made with garlic and sea salt, and pesto. The pesto is a smooth, spreadable paste made by pureeing olive oil and garlic seed pods called “scapes.”

The scapes appear in June when the plant wants to complete its cycle and produce seed. If this is allowed, all of the energy of the plant will go into the seeds, leaving the bulb to wither. Removing the scapes causes the plant energy to go into creating a large, nutritious bulb.

Julie hand-harvests buckets full, estimating 1,250 scapes per row in her two-acre garlic plot. 

  

Standing among the rows, Julie points out seven varieties of hard neck and artichoke garlic, each with its own special color, aroma and taste. One rare, Korean variety, Asian Tempest, is known for its hotness. The Spanish Roja, grown widely in the western states, is a favorite for cooking Mexican foods.

“Our biggest goal here is to grow the very best garlic we can,” Julie said. She is working to become certified as an organic grower. The process, she said, will take three years and includes following specific guidelines and passing inspections.

“We are also expecting to be GAP (good farm practices) certified by the end of July and third-party audited so that we can sell overseas and to larger distributors of the restaurant industry,” she said.

While her husband has a job away from home, Julie puts all her labor and love into the garlic. It is a never-ending cycle of nature. 

After this summer’s harvest, Lowell will till the ground and they will plant cow peas, also known as black-eyed peas. When those plants are about six inches high, they will be plowed under to feed the soil. Before planting the garlic this fall, the ground will be mounded into wind rows. The mounds will allow water to run off. It will keep the garlic, which will be planted four inches deep, above any standing water.

Julie will spread her witch’s brew and cover the rows with straw to prevent heaving which happens when soil freezes and thaws, pushing bulbs up out of the ground. The straw also provides protection for early shoots that may try to come up some warm day in March.

Starting in April, Julie sprays the garlic leaves with liquid kelp for nourishment. In May she adds fish emulsion and sprays every two weeks. Feeding stops June 1 or the leaves would grow too tall at a time when it is important to grow the bulb as big as possible before harvest.

To learn more about the farm, visit www.natureswisdomgarlic.com.

Farmers Market Opens

Julie and Lowell Frederick, owners of Nature’s Wisdom Garlic in London, are among the growers who participate in the London Farmer’s Market, which will hold its grand opening for the season on July 12. The market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday in the parking lot in front of the Madison County-London City Health Department on Lafayette Street. All items are grown and/or made in Madison County. For more information, call Ron Shoaf at 740-874-3254 or Diane Furbee at 740-852-9235.

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