Each night I ask the stars up above, what is it like to be a garlic in love?1
This summer on the farm the trees and shrubs are so heavy with humid longing that they are just laying all over each other and filling every space with green leaves and branches. I just noticed this on one of my strolls along the paths through the meadows. We have a food forest here with nut trees leading to blueberries, currants and gooseberries leading to stream crossings and elderberries fanning out into weeping willow trees and a slope orchard.
What are these plant kingdom beings thinking about all day? Or as my mother once asked my daughter about her pet rodents, “How are they feeling?”
Sometimes they give us signs. They begin to wilt, this means “get my roots into water please, fast!” The wind is pushing them over, and they seem to look up at me and say, ” Brother, go get a bamboo or black locust stake and help support my need to stand upright.” Their leaves turn a bit tawny and yellow with color washed out, so I hear them asking for compost or liquid seaweed and fish to nourish them. When I am tuned in, I hear their call and follow through for them. They are our friends, our companions on the journey to consciousness. They nourish us as we nourish and support them.
We go through life depending on plants to feed us. They depend on us to let them live in peace and harmony. Sometimes they fall in love. It is not so often you catch them in a warm embrace, as they are very modest. When we take a class on plant behavior, we learn that their whole makeup is focused on being attractive. Many plants rely on their attractiveness to get better pollination. This allows them to set seed and then there will be more of them in the world. This goes on season after season. Did you know that plants around us are trying to look their best?
We save some of our biggest and firmest garlic bulbs each year. We prepare a rich fluffy bed. Sometime in October, we gently divide the cloves and drop each one flat end down, pointy end up into the 3-inch-deep holes we make with a tool called a dibble. Then we hoe over it and sprinkle some compost over the top of the whole bed. Garlic is one of the first plants up in the spring. It is also one of the first to be ready to harvest.
When they send up long tall hollow green “necks” which seem to float in the sky, you can snap these off and use this garlic green in soups and pesto. Supposedly this helps the energy go into the garlic bulb, so you get larger garlic to harvest and store. In mid-summer, when many of the stalks are turning yellow, we harvest our crop and hang it on the wall tied gently together in bunches. They still need air and space so do not pack them tightly. We can enjoy this garlic all fall, winter and spring until it is time to visit the garlic again, growing in the summer sun.
I walk slowly over to the row of garlic. Their long necks are twirling in the sun. Some of them I leave, because they are so beautiful and graceful like swans in the garden. Others I leave because I do not have the heart to disturb the ones who are so obviously in love.
David Fried owns Elmore Roots Nursery in Elmore, Vermont
1Line in my song is inspired by one in a song by Mort Shuman and Jerome Felder