Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Braiders of the Lost Garlic

Earlier this summer, the Renaissance Man and I enjoyed a lovely, relaxing dinner at the home of our favorite contradance callers. The Contra Callers live outside of town on a quiet, wood-sheltered homestead, where they have a large and productive garden, a row of blueberry bushes, a bamboo patch, a magnificent barn, and other delights for a farmgirl wannabe like me.

We headed out again last evening to visit, to check on the progress of the garden (it's doing very well, as you can see!), and to help the Callers with a project they had mentioned in our previous get-together.

Mr. Contra Caller, a farmboy at heart despite his advanced years, had shown us many of his hand-woven baskets as well as a braid of garlic hanging at the front door. When we expressed interest in the technique, he invited us to return when the garlic was ready for harvest, and he offered to show us how to braid the stems so that the garlic could be hung to dry.

Last evening he called to say the garlic was ready -- were we?

Yes, indeed, we were, and after we helped him pull a portion of the garlic, strip off the leaves, and trim off the roots, he showed us his method for braiding the stems.

We each gave it a try, and though we struggled at first with getting all the bulbs and stems worked in and keeping the braid tight at the beginning, we each found that it got easier with each new braid. Once I had gotten the hang of it, in fact, I moved from braiding together 6 bulbs to 8 and then finally 10. (Adding more isn't difficult, though there can be a lot of bulk to work around at first.)

By the end of the evening, we had harvested and cleaned all of the garlic and then braided well over half of the harvest. My fingers were sore from all the pressing down on the stems, but I was thrilled with the muscle memory I had built into my hands in learning this new skill.

We hauled the garlic to the barn to hang up and let dry, though the Contra Callers graciously allowed us to take some home for ourselves (along with some freshly pulled red onions). They fed us carrot cake, frozen yogurt, and peanuts for dessert after all our hard work, and we enjoyed talking with them for another hour or so before it grew late and we needed to head home.

Of course, in the course of that conversation, the Renaissance Man and Mr. Contra Caller got to talking about scythes, so I suspect another lesson will be forthcoming -- one that will help me harvest my grain patch this fall.

I know I'm up for another exciting farm adventure!

Part of my contribution to the Forty Seeds Project: over 40 minutes, well over 40 bulbs of garlic braided!

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At 7/22/2009 5:55 PM, Anonymous Janet said...

Love it! And I'm sure you'll love your "payment" for weeks/months to come.

At 7/23/2009 7:06 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I sure am, Janet. It smelled sooooo good while we worked with it! It's perfuming my kitchen even now...


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