The sweet smell of success has the aroma of garlic!
Three years ago my wife and I moved to the country with the intention of creating a situation in which we could be entirely self-sufficient. Our plan was to raise all our own vegetables and in addition, several meat producing animals such as pigs, cows and chickens. Reality soon prevailed. We realized that we did not have the time required to become self-sufficient and, therefore, were forced to compromise a bit. Becoming self-sufficient and holding down full-time jobs was too demanding. We concluded that because fresh vegetables are so plentiful and inexpensive in Florida, we would pay others for their labor by buying fresh vegetables from the growers. We presently preserve and/or freeze these vegetables and concentrate our time on growing a cash crop.
We wanted to grow a product which would be "pest free," that is, one which would not require chemicals or pesticides. We wanted it to have high recognition in the marketplace, be hearty and have a concentrated harvest time so that we could keep the weeds under control during the growing season and take several weeks off work to harvest.
We chose not to compete with large commercial growers or truck-farmers. We were sure that if we grew a product which would compete with either, we would find ourselves in a highly competitive, low profit situation. It would be the commercial grower or truck farmer who would determine the value of our crop, not us.
Additionally, we were looking for a product which was under-produced, that is, one where the demand exceeded the supply.
With this sort of criteria, it did not take long to eliminate just about every farm product because each had one inherent drawback or another.
By process of elimination we focused our attention on garlic. We learned that it is very popular, not only in America but around the world. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization lists the world's consumption at about 5 billion pounds per year. The world's leading producers are China, India, Spain, South Korea, Thailand and Egypt respectively. Garlic is the number three spice used in this country. Salt is first. Pepper is second. Additionally, we learned that there are more than three hundred different strains of garlic grown around the world.
In America, commercially grown garlic is by far the leader in pounds produced and its production has quadrupled in the past 25 years. California leads all states producing some 90% of American grown garlic. Nearly all California's production is concentrated within a 90 mile radius of Gilroy, which is in the Santa Clara Valley, about 70 miles southeast of San Francisco. Figures from the office of the California Agricultural Statistician show that in 1995 some 31,000 acres were planted producing 5,115,000 pounds with a value of $179,834,000. Pretty impressive figures!
"Silverskin French" and "Serpentine" are the two main varieties grown in California. They are ideally suited to large farms because they can be planted, maintained and harvested with large farm equipment. They produce fertile seeds and quite often multiple bulbs. For the most part commercial growers are not interested in producing other varieties of garlic.
Aside from competing with the commercial garlic growers, there is a second avenue which one can follow. A person can successfully grow and sell "specialty garlic" which is generally sold to the "connoisseur" who is particular as to the flavor garlic delivers to his/her food. Anyone interested in learning more about specialty garlic need only send $2.00 to Filaree Farm, 182 Conconully Hwy, Okanogan WA 98840, to receive their 32-page catalog which lists and explains the differences between some 70 varieties of garlic. Filaree Farm also offers an excellent book entitled Growing Great Garlic, by Ron L. Engeland, which consists of 226 pages explaining how to grow every imaginable type of garlic, except the type which my wife and I decided to grow. Their book sells for $16.95 postpaid.
We sent for the Filaree catalog and read Mr. Engeland's book. We also studied the statistics from California and after careful consideration rejected garlic completely. We decided that we would not try to compete with the commercial growers in California and we did not want to be bothered producing, separating and selling seventy varieties of specialty garlic. No thanks!
Then we saw a classified ad in Countryside which offered information on something called "elephant garlic." The information sent to us offered a book written by Thomas J. Bailey entitled Raising Elephant Garlic, which we ordered. After reading Mr. Bailey's 100-page manual and considering the competition, we realized that we had found what we believe to be the "perfect product for the small grower." Here's why.
Elephant garlic is different from all other garlic in that its plants are very large (some the size of a grapefruit) with cloves that can weigh as much as four ounces each (average weight is between 2-1/2 and 3 ounces).
Elephant garlic is much smoother tasting than either commercially grown or most specialty grown garlic and therefore lends itself to being used not only as a spice in cooking but also as a food warmed slightly. Due to its size it is much easier to handle, peel and cut into slices. It does not cause bad breath nor does it leave an overpowering taste in the mouth following the meal. Additionally, it does not dominate the flavor of the meal. This was enough to convince us, but there is more.
Although elephant garlic produces seeds, the seeds produced are not fertile. Because the seeds are infertile, elephant garlic is not the type of product which would attract a multi-million dollar grower. Look at it from the commercial "rowers" point of view -- why would the commercial grower raise a product which cannot be cost efficient? To the commercial producer the more tons produced, the better. He is satisfied earning a profit on each ton produced; collect the seeds and clear the field. With new seeds, he is prepared to grow next year's crop. A commercial grower who chose to grow elephant garlic would be forced to retain a portion of this year's crop for the next year's planting. (Do you get it?) Why should the commercial grower be bothered growing a product knowing that he will have to retain a portion for next year? The commercial growers in California prefer to grow a physically smaller garlic in mass quantity and sell every last plant. The commercial growers cannot be bothered growing elephant garlic and, for the most part, they don't! This opens the door to the gigantic garlic market for you and me.
Growing elephant garlic is different because a portion of this year's harvest must be retained and cannot be sold because it represents the following year's seed stock. Here's what I mean by that. The beginning.
Seed stock for elephant garlic is usually purchased by the piece. Each "piece" is actually a clove (section) of the plant which was recently harvested. Let's say a person started with 100 pieces (cloves). Each clove is planted and will grow for eight to 10 months and will then split into four to six cloves, each of which is a genetic duplication of the mother clove. Each clove is a viable plant ready to be planted again (or eaten). As previously mentioned, the seeds produced by elephant garlic are sterile.
After the first growing season has been completed, those 100 cloves would become 100 full size plants. These plants would then be split into 500 or so cloves (sections). If this person sold all 500 cloves he/she would be out of business because the plants produce no seeds. But suppose this person sold none at all and planted all 500 cloves. The second harvest would produce 500 full size plants which would split into 2,500 cloves. He/she could sell 1,500 for a profit, keep 500 for his/her own consumption and replant the remaining 500.
I'll bet I know what you're saying to yourself: "This scenario is based on 100% germination and nothing germinates 100%. If 500 are planted there is no way all of them will germinate." Let me put your mind to rest. About 99.5% germinate. It is the rare exception when one does not pop through the soil. Some may be late in coming, but for the most part every clove grows.
This spring will bring on our third harvest and will result in approximately 15,000 of the very best elephant garlic in this country. Through hard work and perseverance we will have turned an initial cash investment of about $200 into a successful small business, a never-ending supply of elephant garlic for our own use, and the opportunity to introduce this wonderful product to anyone who may be interested. This harvest will require only 7,700 square feet--less than one-fifth of an acre!
Garlic's uses have been hailed for centuries. Refer to the Bible, Numbers, 11:5: "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cocumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick."
From page 68 of Honey, Garlic & Vinegar Home Remedies, by Dr. Patrick Quillan: "What drug can: lower fats in the blood to prevent heart disease, thin out the blood to prevent strokes, improve immune functions to fight infections and cancer, regulate blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels, energize, detoxify the body, and more, and cost only pennies a day with no side effects? No drug can do that -- garlic can!" On page 79, Dr. Quillan says: "In a study from India, researchers divided 432 heart disease patients into two groups. One group received daily garlic supplements, while the other group did not. The group receiving garlic had a 30% reduction in repeat heart attacks in year two and a 60% reduction in year three."
On page 20 of McCalls magazine, November, 1991, we find that "One recent German study found that people who took daily garlic supplements for four months experienced an average drop of 12 percent in cholesterol levels, and another study found an eight percent decrease in blood pressure... Other studies have shown that garlic reduces blood clotting in arteries, much as aspirindoes... At the National Cancer Institute, researchers have found that people in China, who tend to have diets high in garlic, have a reduced risk of stomach cancer... garlic has been found to help eliminate toxic chemicals and intercept dangerous cancer causing substances... For centuries herbalists and other advocates of natural medicine have used garlic to fight a wide variety of ailments, including tuberculosis, food poisoning, bladder infections, athlete's foot, leprosy and vaginal yeast infections. During World War I, doctors used it as an antibiotic to treat infected wounds and dysentery."
These are some of the many reasons we selected elephant garlic as an excellent crop to grow. Refer to page 3 of your Nov./Dec. 1996 issue of Countryside where the book Honey, Garlic & Vinegar Home Remedies was advertised. We sent for a copy and liked it so much we became distributors. It is really excellent. (Send $9.95 for "Remedies" to The Leader Co. Inc., Publishing Division, Dept. HG371, PO Box 8347, Canton OH 44711.)
If you presently have a garden and do not grow your own elephant garlic, you may want to consider it. You probably never thought of just how valuable the product could be for your (and your family's) health and you also probably never thought that growing garlic may be an easy way to earn enough money to pay those annoying property taxes every year. One hundred cloves can be planted in an area measuring about 3' x 10'.
For more information about elephant garlic, just send your name and address to: Charles O'Sullivan, PO Box 1650. Polk City FL 33868.
1/2 cup finely chopped garlic or shallots About 3 cups white wine vinegar 2 cups water 6 cups sugar 2 pouches (3 oz. ed.) liquid pectin or 2 boxes f2 oz. ed.) powder pectin Food coloring (optional)
In a 2-2 1/2 qt. pan, combine garlic or shallots and vinegar. Simmer gently, uncovered, over medium heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a quart jar. Cover and let stand at room temperature 24-36 hours.
Pour flavored vinegar through a strainer into a bowl, pressing garlic or shallots with back of a spoon to squeeze out liquid. Measure liquid and add vinegar if needed to make 2 cups.
Liquid pectin: In a 5-6 qt. kettle combine flavored vinegar, water and sugar. Bring to a full boil over medium-high heat. Stir in pectin and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring constantly, for one, minute.
Dry pectin: In a 5-6 qt. kettle, combine flavored vinegar and pectin. Bring to a full boil over medium-high heat, then stir in sugar. Boil for two minutes, stirring constantly.
If desired, stir in 2 drops of red, orange or yellow food coloring. Skim off foam, then spoon hot jelly into hot jars (1/2 pint) to within 1 inch of rim. Seal. Process in a simmering water bath 10 minutes.
Makes 3-1/2 pints.
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|Title Annotation:||growing garlic; includes related article with a recipe for garlic jelly|
|Author:||O'Sullivan, Charles; Whiting, L.|
|Publication:||Countryside & Small Stock Journal|
|Date:||Jul 1, 1997|
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