In your box:
–Cucumber or summer squash
–Garlic, “Bear Carcass”
–Lettuce or endive
As you scroll through the list of crops in your box this week, I’m guessing two points of interest crossed your mind. First, it might surprise you that I’ve mentioned a specific variety of garlic. In grocery stores, garlic is garlic. But in the garden, there are thousands of types of garlic that form bulbs in at least 9 different shapes. Grocery store garlic is nearly all soft-neck, and nearly always either “California Early” or “California Late” (such exciting names, yes?). Soft-neck garlic is good for only two things: braiding and storing. Big stores like it because it keeps for up to a year. But it lacks the wide variety of flavor featured in different cultivars that may keep for a few months or even just a few weeks.
To best appreciate the difference, I heartily recommend grabbing a clove of both our delicious garlic and a clove from the grocery store. Peel and pop the whole thing in your mouth, chewing avidly. The first thing you’ll notice is that everyone is looking at you and wondering what in the world could possibly be wrong with you. The second thing you’ll notice is that no one wants to be around you. But after that, you might appreciate the subtle difference between heirloom garlic and common stock. Unfortunately, no one will be there for you to tell them about it.
One good way to enjoy garlic without the zest of raw eating is to chop it into fine pieces and soak in a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice in the fridge for up to an hour. This makes a great topping for pasta, crackers, or salad.
The second point of interest in our box contents is the fact that this garlic is called “Bear Carcass.” I assure you, no bears went into fertilizing this garlic or any other crop on our farm. After our garlic stock was wiped out by disease in 2012, I was desperately searching for non-Minnesota garlic that had not contracted aster yellows. I checked with the farm in central Wisconsin where Nina and I had first served as interns, and they indeed had extra garlic stock that was disease free. So we bought some from them to plant, even though they didn’t know the variety’s name. It is thus named, by me, for a thrilling and utterly disgusting discovery Nina and I made one morning on their farm. As newlyweds, our first home was their intern quarters: an 8′ x 16′ cabin we called “The Box.” This is about as spacious as living in the cabinet under your bathroom sink. But one day we woke up and there was a dead bear just outside our door. Quite dead, in fact, and its fur was torn all over the area. So that’s the story of the bear carcass. I didn’t even have to look it up on Google. Please don’t think about a bear carcass while you enjoy your bulb.
Our sweet corn is indeed finally ready! We’ve planted enough for at least two weeks, so we should enjoy it right up through Labor Day. If you can’t get to your corn right away, it’s easy to freeze. Just drop it in boiling water for 4-6 minutes as you usually would to eat it. After that, cool it off in cold water immediately to stop the boiling process. Once it has cooled, take a sharp knife and scrape the kernels off. Transfer the kernels to a freezer-safe container and move to the freezer.
This year we had our first serious crop losses to animal pests. Some critter enjoyed the top quarter of about 40 ears of corn, leaving the ears basically worthless. Something also walked down our lettuce row and ate the center-hearts out of 50 heads, leaving the outer leaves with a gaping hole in the middle. As a result, we have a mixture of head lettuces and endive that survived and are in your box today. I put up electric fencing immediately afterward, and it seems to have done the trick. Deer, raccoon and rabbits are the first suspects, but if we walk up on a bear carcass some morning it could have been a vegetarian bear all along….