With the annual planting of the garlic, we transition into a quieter phase of late autumn and winter at Restoration Farm. Mother Nature has welcomed our efforts with blue skies and brisk winds. Pine needles and russet leaves pirouette through the sky and we are surrounded by autumn. We gather at rustic worktables near the Red Barn to begin the work of separating garlic cloves for planting.
This year’s planting day is later than in past seasons and members are bundled in coats, hats and gloves. Head Grower Dan Holmes plots the planting of the garlic as close to the culmination of the full moon as possible. It is an ancient farming practice and following the lunar cycle is said to increase the quality of crops. During the waning Moon (Full to New Moon) root crops like garlic and onions are traditionally planted.
Very quickly, my work gloves become cumbersome. I abandon them in order to work faster and soon I can smell the sweet scent of garlic on my fingertips. Working together, we amass several bushel baskets of garlic cloves that are ready to be planted.
Donna Sinetar, “The Chicken Lady” harvests some fresh snacks of carrots and kohlrobi from a nearby bed for the volunteers. She simply rinses the carrots of dirt, and passes large orange chunks around. The carrots taste amazingly sweet.
It is time for planting, and I walk through the historic village and pass an old Dutch house on the way to the garlic field.
Last season’s bed is now blanketed with a cover crop of oats and field peas. The new garlic bed has been cultivated and “dimpled” and members are on their knees pushing individual cloves into the soil.
In short time, the field is planted and we capture the moment in a photo with George and Arline Garbarini and Donna Sinetar. It is a job well done for the members at Restoration Farm. In an era when the months seem to fly by with unnerving speed, it is not an exaggeration to say that before too long, we will be standing in this same field in the sweltering heat of summer harvesting fat bulbs of fresh garlic.
What better way to celebrate the annual planting of the garlic, than with a restorative bowl of mussels in a steaming broth of garlic and white wine?
Preparing mussels is a simple process of sautéing aromatics in oil and butter, creating a seasoned broth with wine and lemon juice and then briefly steaming the mussels in the broth. These recipes provided inspiration. The garlic, red onion and parsley come straight from the fields of Restoration Farm, and the white wine is my favorite Sancerre. The crisp, mineral accents of the wine are a perfect match for fragrant, locally grown garlic and shellfish.
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