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Video: Garlic, a crop of many powers

  • Deb Habib picks flowers in preparation for the two day North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival starting Sept. 24 in Orange. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo

  • Seeds of Solidarity farm in Orange. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo

  • Deb Habib picks flowers in preparation for the two day North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival starting Sept. 24 in Orange. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo

  • Deb Habib picks flowers in preparation for the two-day North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival starting Saturday in Orange. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Garlic from Seeds of Solidarity in Orange in preparation for the two-day North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival starting Saturday in Orange. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Garlic at Seeds of Solidarity in Orange in preperation for the two day North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival starting Sept. 24 in Orange. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo

  • Garlic at Seeds of Solidarity in Orange in preperation for the two day North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival starting Sept. 24 in Orange. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo

  • Laura Torra puts together bags of garlic at Seeds of Solidarity in preparation for the upcoming Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo

  • Ricky Baruq holds garlic at Seeds of Solidarity farm in Orange. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo

  • Corn at Seeds of Solidarity farm. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo

  • Chris Bonneau prepares garlic at Seeds of Solidarity farm in Orange. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—Andy Castillo



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, September 20, 2016

ORANGE — When herbalist Laura Torraco broke her tooth, exposing a nerve, raw garlic not only numbed the pain for hours, but also likely saved her from getting a bacterial infection.

With its immune-boosting, anti-bacterial and cholesterol-lowering properties, garlic is an amazing food for health, according to Deb Habib, co-founder of Seeds of Solidarity farm. Both a culinary and medicinal “superfood,” garlic is also a resilient crop that can be cultivated by the home gardener.

On a recent morning, Habib was working on the farm, braiding garlic for the upcoming North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival planned for this weekend at Forster’s Farm in Orange. Alongside her were Torraco and Chris Bonneau, both workers on the farm, as well as Ricky Baruc, Habib’s husband and Seeds of Solidarity co-founder.

During the festival, Seeds of Solidarity will sell 16 varieties of seed garlic, geared toward the home gardener.

“Basically what we do is we try to encourage people to grow their own garlic for health and resilience, and of course deliciousness,” Habib said.

Torraco said the medicinal power of the home garden often gets overlooked. Garlic, she said, has a wide variety of uses — it’s anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, cleansing and promotes sexual vigor. It’s also said to increase one’s “internal fire.”

“My personal experience with garlic is it has been helpful, especially in the winter. In the cold time, it’s a warming food,” Torraco said. “Adding that fire to you in the dead of winter is kind of nice.”

In addition to its numerous health benefits, Habib said garlic’s hardiness in the garden is also important. With drought conditions across the state and worldwide climate change, crops like garlic are appropriate for a changing landscape. Not only do they fulfill health and dietary needs, but they can also survive harsh conditions.

“It requires a lot less water than the majority of the crops we grow in the region,” Bonneau said. “The amount of water use is also a huge factor in what we should be aware of with climate change.”

Habib added that garlic, which is planted in the fall and harvested mid-summer, is a crop that can extend the growing season for home gardeners.

“One of the cool things about it is you think in New England gardening only happens in the summer, and it doesn’t — garlic is proof of that,” Habib said.

Growing garlic

To grow garlic, break up the bulb into cloves while keeping the papery layer on. Plant the cloves in soil about six inches apart and three inches deep with the pointed end up. Then, lay down mulch hay and leave it for the winter.

In the spring, garlic sprouts will start to poke up through the mulch, which can be snipped and eaten. The plant will send up a garlic scape — the curly, green part of the plant — which should be cut off in late June to send the energy down into the bulb, which will thicken.

Habib said the scapes, which taste like garlic, can be eaten. She suggests making scape pesto, adding scapes to a stir fry or blending them to make garlic bread. Garlic is generally ready to harvest by the end of July. It can be hung out of the sun in a dry place to cure, which brings out the flavor more and enables it to be stored, or it can be used right away as green garlic, which has a milder flavor.

“I think in some ways, the most delicious way to enjoy garlic is to just roast it with some olive oil,” Habib said. “Just getting back to simplicity — roast it at 350 degrees in the oven until it’s tender and then squeeze it out of its paper wrapper onto some really good bread with some local cheese and some fresh tomato. That’s all you need, you could live on that.”

Seeds of Solidarity’s ‘Harvest Delight’ recipe

4 to 5 potatoes, red or white

1 sweet potato

1 cup cubed butternut squash

1 bulb garlic

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon rosemary

½ teaspoon salt and pepper

Wash, cut and slice or dice all vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Separate garlic bulb into cloves, leaving skins on. Toss all with olive oil and seasonings and place in a casserole dish. Bake covered at 350 degrees for about an hour or until vegetables are tender. This can be a meal in itself, or served with roasted chicken.