That is definitely true when it comes to wrapping up harvest of Christopher Ranch’s California heirloom garlic. Sad face.
Our harvest throughout California’s Central Valley is nearing a close, expected to wind down in late August or early September, after commencing in early June. Time sure does fly when you’re growing garlic.
Once complete, those three months of harvest will have generated more than 60-million pounds of fresh heirloom garlic, and thanks to state-of-the-art storage techniques, the flavorful, fresh, healthy and safe goodness that is California heirloom garlic will be available year round.
When picking up a bulb of California heirloom garlic in the grocery store, it’s difficult to fathom the steps required in moving garlic from our field to your fork. Because the end of harvest always makes us a little nostalgic, it’s the perfect time to walk down memory lane and share how the 2009 season came to be…
To put things into initial perspective, a garlic bulb is similar to a baby (bet you don’t hear that comparison everyday). At least in the regard that it takes nine careful months to grow. After that, the similarities weaken drastically – garlic definitely doesn’t need to have its diaper changed.
Following are the basic steps in the evolution of California heirloom garlic:
Step 1 – Planting: this occurs in October and November.
Step 2 – Tending to the crop for six months: November through early May. Ensuring garlic grows according to plan and handling any interruptions.
Step 3 – Cutting the water: will start early May or early June (depending on early or late variety) and continue six to seven weeks. This is the first stage of a roughly nine-week curing (or drying out) process. It is essential fresh garlic dry out before storage because if stored wet, it becomes prone to moisture-related issues, like mold.
Step 4 – Undercutting the garlic: will start mid-June or mid-July and continue until harvest ends (either late June or late August, depending on variety). Undercutting is physically pulling the garlic from the ground – a rather labor-intensive activity that requires thousands of workers during peak harvest in late July. Undercutting is done mainly by hand, as there is no machine delicate enough to harvest bulb garlic. Garlic that will be processed (peeled, chopped, crushed, minced, etc.) is machine harvested, however.
Step 5 – Wind rowing: upon undercutting, the garlic is then laid in wind rows in the fields to further cure – or dry out – in the wind and sun for about two more weeks.
Step 6 – Topping: occurs late June/early July or late August/early September (again, depending on variety). Topping is the final stage of harvest, when the garlic’s stalk and roots are manually topped, prior to shipment to the packing facility.
There you have it. The precious lifecycle of California heirloom garlic.
And, because we pride ourselves on growing the most flavorful, fresh, healthy, safe and sustainable garlic possible, we abide by the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety and quality control guidelines.
We also strive to farm as sustainably as possible. As farmers, we’ve always been stewards of our precious land.
For example, we rotate our crops once every four years, in an effort to prevent overfarming and ensure the soil can replenish its natural vitamins and minerals, lending to a more flavorful, healthier garlic.
We also apply drip irrigation to 1/3 of our crop, which emphasizes precision in water and reduces annual water usage by 10%.
Finally, we use 50% fewer pesticides and fertilizers than suggested.
Similar to a baby, growing garlic requires a little patience. And, even though good things come to an end, they also come to those who wait.
Look for California heirloom garlic year round at your local grocer.