While I’m not a Native Californian, the years I spent in both Southern and Northern California have definitely shaped who I am. My love of dirt may be genetic (my paternal grandparents were farmers), but my appreciation of produce comes directly from California. Until we moved there when I was 12-ish, vegetables were mostly frozen or canned. Oranges came from nearby Florida (we lived in Savannah, Georgia). Then we moved to California, where produce was everywhere. My memories? The Irvine Ranch market. The citrus groves. Strawberries and artichokes. The lemons, grapefruit, loquats, and avocados in our various backyards. The Los Gatos farmers’ market. My mouth still waters thinking about the produce I purchased a million years ago as a new college grad—I sure could make $20 go far and provide a week’s worth of meals thanks to farmers like Dirty Girl Produce.
There really is something amazing about getting your food directly from the people that grow it. Hearing the stories of how it came to be, the trials of the weather, the experimentation with new crops and varieties, makes you feel like what you’ve been allowed to buy is a real miracle. Because it is.
I spent my teen years near the Garlic Capital of the World. Gilroy, California claims that title. Driving through there with my family and later as an adult on my own cross-California adventures, I was fascinated by the distinctive smell of millions of cloves of garlic growing in the hot inland Northern California sun. It was strong. It was pungent. It made me hungry even though it was so overwhelming.
One late summer I visited the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival with a pal from college. We tasted garlic ice cream and garlic wine (don’t bother) but also delicious aioli and artichokes and scampi. The very smell of garlic makes me think of California. Not just driving through Gilroy with the windows down, smelling that heady vampire-repelling smell, but also walking through North Beach in San Francisco. If I had to pick an official culinary scent of California, it would be garlic. Sorry oranges, strawberries, and wine. You are definitely in my top 10, just not in the coveted #1 position.
And I’ve always wondered how garlic grows.
So when Farmer Megan at Pure Land Organic posted that she needed help getting next years’s garlic harvest into the ground, I jumped at the chance and volunteered for a few hours of labor, a free lunch and a bag of amazing organic veggies (gonna need to make some roasted peppers and another batch of cowboy candy with the bounty). How cool would that be? Bruce got volun-told I’m afraid, but he was excited to help too.
It’s how we spent today:
In short it was awesome! Bruce and I put around 2300 garlic cloves into the ground. And it was super easy thanks to Farmer Pop’s (Megan’s dad) handy dandy John Deere ride-on planter.
All Bruce and I had to do is sit side-by-side for a couple of hours and push root ends of garlic cloves into the holes that the planter made, then pinch the soil over the holes. Easy peasy! Such a nice day to hang out outside.
And now I know how to plant garlic. I’m going to add it to the rotation at the urban farm and get some in the ground next weekend. Thanks for the planting lesson, Farmer Megan!
Today’s gratuitous dog photo of the day comes from last night’s surprise on Bruce—he’s got a big birthday coming up and we have a very busy next couple of months so the friends who visited us last night decided to celebrate his birthday early. Here, Gidget is helping with the birthday candles and Guinness is asleep on the sofa!
Everything taste better with garlic. Sounds like a cool experience
It was cool. You woukd have loved it.
Oh and there were horses nearby…
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I think Gidget really would have preferred to help with the cake :). Happy early birthday Bruce. I want to live in Northern California!
Very cool! I used to drive down to Gilroy all the time when I was living in Sausalito. Never mustered the courage to try the garlic ice cream though!
Well, it’s foul, so it’s good you haven’t tried it. Hard to get that taste out of your mouth!