I’m someone who loves his job, truly. But I’ve also been described as a jack of all trades, which makes me anxious sometimes when I spend too much time doing just one thing—i.e. my …
I’m someone who loves his job, truly. But I’ve also been described as a jack of all trades, which makes me anxious sometimes when I spend too much time doing just one thing—i.e. my day job. As should be fairly apparent by now if you’ve read any of my other columns, many if not most of my other passions lie in agriculture and the outdoors. So when five o’clock rolls around, during this time of year, in particular, my mind goes straight from work to—well, more work. Not more office work, but farm work.
As we quickly approach July and the summer begins to yield the start of various seasonal harvests that my wife and I have invested in, both of our after-hours time is dedicated to maintaining and preparing our summer crops. Full disclosure, this is the first year we have had any serious crops. When I married my wife, I told her I would get her a farm one day. Well, I haven’t quite nailed down the property portion of that, but thanks to her father and some friends of ours, we secured enough space to begin building on our aspirations. As I got home from work this past week and changed into jeans and a T-shirt, the momentary goal of our various responsibilities became to harvest the garlic scapes from the acre or so we planted this past fall.
For those of you who don’t know what garlic scapes are, allow me to shed some light on the subject. When you plant garlic, you really have two choices as to how you do that: you can plant cloves or you can plant seeds. We chose to plant cloves because this clones the previous garlic plant and maintains a consistent if not heartier garlic bulb as opposed to planting a seed, which will develop as a new generation of garlic, lessening the heat in the flavor accrued by garlic that has been re-sown for several years and is less likely to produce as large of a bulb as the clove would. Cloves are planted approximately in October and allowed to weather over the winter. In the spring, they come up in stalk-like shoots and about this time of year, the center stalk curls around on itself before beginning to head out or produce a seed pod. Since we want our garlic plants to produce larger bulbs and not make extra seeds we choose not to use, it’s important that we walk through and snap off the scapes, the curly center stalk, before they develop further into seed. Fortunately, scapes are entirely edible and taste just like garlic, if not a little bit creamier depending on how you prepare them. As a more-than-willing quality assurance professional, I, of course, sample small bites of the scapes from various parts of the patch whilst harvesting.
In another few weeks, the garlic heads themselves will be ready to pull out of the ground and be dried and sold as mature bulbs, but in the meantime, we lovers of garlic are not without appetizing options. Like many other vegetables, fruits and berries grown around here, they are only in season for a short spell, but while they are here, we certainly enjoy them. Grilled, fresh, sautéed and even mixed into a summer potato or macaroni salad, scapes are just one of those unsung heroes of the vegetable world. As a still wet-behind-the-ears vegetable farmer, I can say they have been very gratifying to watch grow since they first popped through the soil in spring. If you have a green thumb or even one that wants to be green, I would encourage you to try planting a few this fall and waiting for the rewards brought forth next summer. In many ways, garlic is a lot like work (in a good way): You put in the investment of time and a little labor and, at the end of the cycle, you have a clove that has multiplied itself into a full bulb. And added benefits—how about those scapes? I like to think of them as a little bonus on a crop that will be giving to me later on anyway.
The way out here, we rely on the investments we make, be it a day job or the time we put into the ground. Both may pay some bills, but ultimately, it’s the way we invest our time that reaps an intrinsic reward not often found in an office. At least that’s how I feel about it, and I know a handful of old-timers and new-timers alike who would agree with me. And if you’re not the type to enjoy the work of growing food, that’s all right too; you can come visit our farm stands and purchase a taste of the way out here.