The sun was hot but a cool breeze mitigated some of its effect as we bent over the rows of reedy garlic plants. Rachelle, the owner of Earthkeeper Farm, a USDA Organic and Snail of Approval certified farm in Kent City, MI, had already gone through the rows and “forked” them, loosening the soil around each bulb. It was our job to squat down, grasping the base of the stem firmly, and pull each bulb from the ground where it had been planted last fall. We gently brushed off the clods of dirt stuck to the roots and placed them in bins.
“Careful with that,” Rachelle called from a row over. “Garlic is fragile until it’s cured; you don’t want to knock the heads together.” I nodded and gently piled up the fragrant bulbs. After about an hour of pulling, cleaning, and placing we took the garlic back to the barn. The shelter offered a bit of an oasis from the heat, but we were all sweaty and caked in dirt anyways, so it didn’t matter much anymore. Pieces of twine were cut to tie together ten heads of garlic. These bunches were hung on strings in the barn to dry out for winter storage.
“Lemonade!” a child’s voice called from outside the barn. Rachelle’s young son stood there, carrying mason jars filled with the sweet, tangy beverage. A welcome break from our work, we paused to lay in the grass and sip on the ice cold drink. We chatted, exchanging stories about how we all came to be on the farm that day. The conversation continued as we finished hanging the bulbs, ranging from mundane talk about our day jobs to deep discussions about all the wonders that exist to be explored in the world.
“Done!” Rachelle announced around 4:45. We had even finished a bit early. We cleaned up the extra bins. One volunteer departed to feed the chickens. I wandered back to the main barn were I was handed three heads of garlic “seconds” – these had been stabbed with the pitchfork or had a slight blemish. I hugged Rachelle goodbye and drove home to roast this gift I had received. I knew it would taste unbelievable, not just because of the quality of Earthkeeper Farm‘s produce, but because of my newly gleaned first-hand knowledge of the effort that goes into producing that pungent, fragrant, common garlic clove.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut of a bit off the tip of a whole head of garlic. Leave the papery skins on the head. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil. Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes, until cloves are soft. Let cool slightly, then squeeze cloves out onto fresh bread.