Amy Feldman and Theresa Granito have a distinct scent about them — the metaphorical scent of success. Six years ago, they just wanted to grow some garlic in their backyard for their own culinary desires. As “accidental farmers,” they found they were pretty good at growing the veggie that vampires hate most.
Actually, they were very good at growing garlic — good enough to start selling their heirloom products at local farmers’ markets and to start their own CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription. Today, they’re branded as “Go Garlic” and looking for more land to grow even more garlic.
Last year, Feldman and Granito harvested about 4,200 heads of organic produce. This year, if the weather stays good, they stand to dig up more than 7,000 bulbs out of the fertile, temperate soil in the Green Creek community of Polk County. And the day may come when they hope to max out at about 20,000 heads annually. Maybe they should consider growing a little parsley for their customers, too — the go-to cure for garlic breath.
As self-proclaimed “garlic information junkies,” you know so much about it, from its history and botany to its geopolitics. How did that happen?
Theresa: In our efforts to learn how to grow garlic well in our environment, it was necessary to research the do’s and don’ts. But the “how-tos” led to when, where, why. Every answer led us to another question. And the questions wandered all over the place, not unlike how garlic has connected cultures all over the world. Didn’t you always want to know in what war garlic was used to signal an impending truce?
What are scapes and green garlic?
Amy: Green garlic is to garlic what scallions are to onions. It’s harvested before the bulb forms, and has a milder garlicky flavor. At this stage, even the roots are edible. Scapes are the flower stalk. If harvested when they are still curled, they are tender and can be used cut into pieces or whole on the grill. Scapes can also be frozen, which is not something you should do with either green garlic or cured heads.
How vast is your garlic enterprise?
Theresa: Vast? [Laughs.] As a producer, we are quite small. What differentiates us is that we grow 10 to 15 varieties each year.
How popular is your product?
Amy: Really fresh garlic is a rarity in the U.S. When people realize they can get locally grown garlic and select a variety that works well with the type of cooking they do, they try ours. Many people tell us they’ll never buy grocery-store garlic again. This year we have some restaurant chefs purchasing garlic from us. Just like home cooks, many chefs think peeling the cloves is too time consuming and sticky. But, hey, we have a hint for that. Just ask.
It’s still just the two of you, so harvest time is no picnic.
Theresa: Let’s just say we are very methodical and persistent. During harvest certain things around the house are sacrificed, and a night out means spending a few more hours in the shed.
Yet you’ve discovered an incidental health benefit of hard garlic labor …
Amy: We have a wedding to go to in July, and we can’t buy the appropriate cocktail attire for weeks yet. If we buy it now, it will not fit then. But if we get the garlic harvested by early July, which is a completely manual process, one plant at a time, we’ll be in great shape. Our time frame for shopping will be short, but the selections will be greater. What do you think: sequins or lace?
Go Garlic is sold at local farmers’ markets and at the Mill Spring Farm Store (156 School Road). For more information about the farm’s CSA program, visit gogarlicnc.com, see Go Garlic on Facebook, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org