Sow True Seed is an open-pollinated, untreated, GMO-free seed company in Asheville, NC offering 400 varieties of vegetable, herb and flower seeds featuring heirloom, organic, and traditional favorites.
Garlic can store well, sometimes up to a year for certain varieties in ideal conditions. But for those of us who have grown and saved garlic, you’ll know that this doesn’t always happen as planned! Your garlic can begin to soften and shrivel before you get a chance to eat it all.
Softnecks tend to store longer, this is because they have multiple tight layers of skin to protect and preserve them. Hardnecks on the other hand often have a thick rigid skin layer, which cracks off easily and makes them a pleasure to peel!
People also love hardnecks for their spring scapes and robust garlic flavor (although all varieties have their distinctness and it’s worth experimenting with the panoply of choices to find your favorite). I fermented my scapes this year and they are divine!
So here is what to do when you know you’ll have too much garlic to eat before it goes soft. You can also ‘rescue’ older garlic this way (although fresher is better), I tend to dehydrate and powder my older garlic.
This is super easy. Peel your cloves, you can cut your bigger cloves into smaller chunks if you want. Pack a jar with the garlic to within about 1/2″ to 1″ of the rim.
Make a salt water brine. I use 1 tbs to 2 cups of water, but you can adjust to taste. Fill the jar with the brine so that all the garlic is covered.
This process of lacto-fermentation releases carbon-dioxide and pressure will build up in a sealed jar. Burp daily.
Fermentation speed will change based on temperature, amount of salt etc. So start taste testing after about a week and refrigerate once the garlic has reached the desired taste and texture.
Honey Fermented Garlic
This one is actually quite delicious and the garlic infused honey is really really good for you during the winter season.
Use raw honey, which is stable at about 17% water content, but will start fermenting with its own yeasts with only an additional 2% water.
The 2% comes from the cloves. You will see the liquid become more runny as the fermentation process continues.
You will also need to burp the jar if it is sealed. The smell will be STRONG!
The actual process is simply filling a jar with cloves (I cut the large ones) and then covering with honey. Fermentation will happen as with the salt-brine, but I find the garlic holds up well over time.
This is refrigerator pickle, so you can use your favorite spices or pickle recipe.
I kept mine simple.
I simmered 2 cups of cider vinegar for 5 mins. I added the garlic and shredded peppers (1 yellow sweet, 1 red sweet, 1 red hot) and continued to simmer for 5 mins.
I packed the clean jar and then poured the hot vinegar to cover the garlic and then sealed.
This jar will need to be refrigerated. The garlic can be eaten after a day or two, but will taste better with age.
A Note On Blue Garlic
I don’t personally understand the science behind this. But everything I’ve read has suggested that this is not dangerous to consume.
A Note On Garlic and Olive Oil
Again, I’m not a scientist, but I believe that preserving garlic in olive oil can easily give rise to the condition for botulism (read: not fun). So, I don’t do this when the above options are easy, tasty and safe.
Many people will have experienced the Mexican Bean Beetle (Epilachna varivestis) as a voracious and prolific pest. As its name suggests, the Mexican Bean Beetle prays on bean crops, but I have seen them leaving their classic laced-leaf destruction on squash, corn and okra. But, they really love the beans.
I’m growing two varieties of bean for seed this year, the beautiful purple striped Cherokee Trail of Tears, and the adventurous, large leafed Mountain Rose. One of the challenges of growing for seed is that the harvest spends a lot more time being exposed to garden pests.
However, I have noticed that they rarely cause severe damage to the pods. Last year, I harvested WNC Greasy Bean seeds and they were covered with dead and dried Mexican Bean Beetles in their larval stage (puffy, yellow bugs that burst easily between your finger and thumb). While the pods had been partially damaged (read: not marketable), the seeds inside were untouched.
As a no-spray seed grower, I am left with only a few control measures for these pests. For most of the last week, I have spent a good ten to twenty minutes each morning popping the yellow larva, occasionally crunching a full grown beetle and even more occasionally discovering and smearing an egg patch.
At times I have brief pangs of remorse; I have literally killed hundreds of these bugs. But, on the whole, I’d prefer to take on my bean-enemies face-to-face, rather than killing everything with a cloud of poison.
The other control measure I like to encourage (and another reason I don’t spray), is the natural balance of the complex ecosystem. If there is prey, then predators will come. This year I have seen that evidenced by Ladybugs and Aphids, Hornworms and Braconid Wasps, Cabbage Worms and ‘unidentified’ predatory wasps, but I have yet to see a significant Mexican Bean Beetle predator, so for now the predator will continue to be me!
Here is an outtake from a Mother Earth news article on the natural enemy of the Mexican bean beetle:
Numerous natural predators can assist in the struggle to manage Mexican bean beetles. These include birds, toads, spined soldier beetles, tachinid flies, and several species of tiny parasitic wasps. However, additional interventions are typically needed because native predators are usually few compared to the number of beetles, larvae and eggs present in an infested bean plot.
Good luck in your gardens! Remember fall is on the way and the best thing about a fall garden is the absence of pesky pests!
Garlic is a super vegetable to include in the home garden, once you know that it has to be planted in the Fall, not Spring or Summer: late September through November, depending, as long as you get the cloves in the ground before the first hard frost. Garlic gets a start in Fall, lies dormant in winter’s cold, then roars back to life in the Spring. Harvest garlic in July, as the tops begin to die back.
Correct planting time and a deeply worked, sunny garden location with good drainage. That’s about all it takes to grow delicious and elegant garlic, and homegrown garlic is big, juicy, and flavorful. You will be spoiled once you grow your own, and never want store-bought again.
The only catch is that garlic for planting is an order-ahead item. Sow True Seed sells the most luscious seed garlic I have seen anywhere, but the supply is limited. Even in Spring or Summer, go ahead and order garlic so that it will be delivered to you at the proper time, usually in September. If you don’t order ahead – and that’s true for just about any seed house – it may be too late to find seed garlic at all.
Why not just buy a head of garlic at the grocery store and use those cloves for planting? Well, you have no way to know what has been sprayed on that garlic, and it may be sprayed with a sprouting inhibitor; just what you don’t need. Seed garlic – heads that are harvested especially for planting – may be a lot larger and have a better chance to sprout.
Hardneck or softneck garlic? That is the question. Each has different characteristics and favors different climates. In general, softneck garlic is for the hot South, while hardneck is for the colder North. Both can do well in the middle section of the country. The key is actually day length. Why not try a Sow True Seed sample pack that includes both kinds, and see which does best for your conditions.
The plant culture of the Appalachian mountains is rich, both in native species’ and domesticated varieties that have been lovingly passed down from generation to generation.
Sow True Seed is honored to help to pass on some of these family treasures to you. One way enjoy them is to follow the Native American tradition of the Three Sisters.
The Three Sisters is a companion planting method, typically consisting of squash, corn and pole beans. Through timing and making use of the natural structures and qualities of the plants, they all grow better together. The corn provides a living stake for the beans to climb. The beans provide the nitrogen boost that the corn needs. The squash grow around the base to shade out the weeds and keep the moisture in the the soil. It’s a harmonious triad.
We are experimenting this year with a Western North Carolina version of the three sisters, substituting sorghum for corn; and including a bean and squash that are very local in their heritage.
You might not be familiar with sorghum, but if you like molasses*, you’ve probably tasted its bounty. Sorghum is an Asian native in the rice family and a relative of sugar cane. Drought tolerant, it is a staple food in parts of Africa. It’s been grown in the mountains for at least a hundred years. Processing it into molasses is hard work, but it tastes delicious! Here’s a page from Kentucky State University on making sorghum molasses.
Below is our plan for growing our WNC Three Sisters. We invite you to join the experiment and share your results on our Facebook page.
1. Plant the sorghum in full sun when soil temperatures reach 65°F (mid to end of May in Asheville). Make hills about 2′ wide and 2 to 3′ apart. Plant 8 seeds in the middle about 1/2″ deep and 1 1/2″ apart. After they sprout, thin to 4 seedlings about 8″ apart.
Our locally sourced, heirloom variety of Sugar Drip Sorghumseed is grown by Holly Whitesides in Watauga County, NC. This early-maturing sorghum makes high quality syrup and will provide a 9 to 12′ tall support for trellising the second part of the trio, the WNC Market Greasy Beans.
2. When the sorghum is about 6″ tall (it grows fast), plant the beans. Sow them in a ring around the sorghum seedlings, about 1″ deep and 5 or 6 per hill.
Greasy beans are a traditional mountain favorite. Ours is a collection of regionally (Mars Hill area) grown beans sourced from the WNC Farmer’s Market. They are called greasy because of their glossy sheen. They are delicious fresh, canned and can also be dried for soups.
3. On the same day you plant the beans, plant the 3rd member of the trio, the squash variety. In this Appalachian sisterhood, that is going to be the delicious Candy Roaster Winter squash, locally and ecologically grown by Firefly Farm in Yancey County. These should be sown in an outer ring around the beans, one or two in each of the four directions, thinned to four once they come up.
Candy Roastershave large, vigorous vines that produce 12-14 lb fruits. The fruits are warty and pinkish orange with green markings. They are buttercup-shaped, very sweet, excellent for baking.
FYI – The name Candy Roaster is attributed to a few different types of winter squash. There is a North Georgia Candy Roaster which is a small (10 lb) variant of the Pink Banana Squash. There is also the Georgia Candy Roaster which is a big (60 lb) variant of the same. Then there is the Candy Roaster we carry, a Buttercup type squash, said to originate in North Carolina.
4. As the beans shoot up, guide them to twine onto the sorghum cane. Thin to 1 or 2 per cane. The squash will be a little slower but will grow large leaves that will start to shade out the weeds and help keep moisture in the the soil. This looks to be a hot dry summer so mulch around the hills with straw to help keep in the moisture. The sorghum will flower in about 40 days.
5. Harvest: The beans will be ready to pick starting in 80 to 85 days. Pick them often and they will keep producing into the fall.
The sorghum takes about 110 days. You can grow it for the edible seeds (a gluten-free grain) as well as the sweet stalks for molasses. Harvest when your thumbnail can’t cut the seed or you see a dark spot on the end of the grains. Cut the head off the stalks, then cut the stalks and leave in the field to dry for a couple of days. See the links above for how to make sorghum molasses.
Thresh the seed heads by rubbing back and forth in your hands over a tray, the seeds will drop off. You can also toss the whole head to your chickens. They will be thrilled.
Candy Roasters, like most winter squash, taste bland and won’t store well if you pick them before they are fully ripe. Wait until the vines turn brown and the shells are hard. A light frost will improve the flavor by turning some of the starches to sugar, but it may shorten the shelf life too. Cut the vine about 3 inches from the squash. For longest keeping, don’t wash them and handle carefully so they don’t bruise. Dry in the sun until stem shrivels, then store in a cool, dry, place.
An autumn succotash would be a great way to enjoy these three sisters in one meal. We’ll let you know how our experiment goes.
* Molasses can be made from sugar cane, sugar beets or from sorghum.
In celebration of WNC Garlic Fest 2015, Sow True Seed is running a Garlic Harvest Photo Contest. It’s super easy to enter and three randomly selected winners will receive 1lb of seed garlic of their choice!
All you have to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org a fun picture of your garlic harvest, the name of the variety you grew and your own name. If you didn’t grow your own garlic, but you still want to play then send us ANY garlic picture that you took (cooking, eating, supermarket shenanigans…).*
All appropriate photos will be uploaded to the new WNC Garlic Fest website as an inspiring homage to the awesomeness of garlic.
The contest will run until July 16th, so send us a garlic photo NOW!
*emailing us a photo means that you are agreeing to give Sow True Seed and WNC Garlic Fest permission to share your photo publicly and you will be signed up to our bi-monthly newsletter. Sow True Seed will never sell or share your email address.
Making your own herbal infusions is so easy, so economical and so beautiful in the garden. Anyone can have a small herbal tea garden! You can make iced teas with the fresh herbs in the summer and you can dry the leaves and flowers for warming teas throughout the winter.
I don’t have any set recipes, I just mix pinches of herbs from different jars and make a big fresh batch each day. I always try and get some green leaves (like Tulsi) and some fragrant flowers (like Chamomile) in the batch, but you should experiment yourself – it’s all going to be delicious!
Here are some pretty awesome herbal teas to get you started!
Tulsi Basil (Holy Basil)
It has been used as an immune-enhancing, antifugal and antibacterial medicinal herb. It has been grown in India since ancient times. Makes a wonderful, soothing tea. At Sow True Seed, we carry two varieties:
Tulsi, Sri – a traditional green Tulsi, also known as Rama. A good variety for warmer climates, though it can be grown in colder climates if taken indoors during winter.
Tulsi, Kapoor – The Kapoor variety is the best tulsi basil for temperate gardens. A very aromatic annual that has been known to self-seed.
A brilliant addition to late summer gardens. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees flock to these edible, lavender colored flowers on 12-24″ tall plants. Leaves and flowers are used for tea.
Excellent beneficial insect attractant. Blooms in early summer with lavender blue flowers on bushy plants. Well known for its historical medicinal properties, lesser known for its once common culinary uses.
Edible flowers are the best! They look good, they keep the pollinators happy AND you can eat them. Check out this selection of edible flowers to get you started:
Both the flowers and leaves are edible with a peppery watercress flavor. There are a good range of varieties to grow, but they are all tasty! View Nasturtium Seed HERE.
Gorgeous blue and purple flowers are edible in salads and make a delicious, soothing tea. High end restaurants freeze individual flowers in ice cubes for fancy cocktails! View Borage Seed HERE.
Johnny Jump Up Viola
These tiny edible beauties will be the first to bloom in your garden, and have been known to poke their pretty faces through snow. View Johnny Jump Up seeds HERE.
A little know secret is that these delicate flowers can be eaten baked, fried, stuffed, in soup, salad or any way you can think of! There are lots of squash plants to choose from, so grow some squash and eat some flowers! View squash varieties HERE.
Bee balm can add a spicy flavor to a salad or steeped as a delicious summer tea. The pollinators really love this one too! View Bee Balm Seed HERE. Written by Sow True Seed’s Farmer-Garden Expert, Chloe Smith
One of my favorite things about being a gardener is the creativity that I get to put to use in the kitchen. I am constantly being challenged to find a use for two or more ingredients that appear to not go together. The resulting meal is usually fantastic, but there are times, every now and then, that I create an ‘epic fail’ meal. It is the same with gardening…mostly successes, with the occasionally failure. The wonderful thing about failure is that we can learn from our mistakes. Mistakes are wonderful actually. So go out and do some experimenting. Trial and error is the best way to learn, in the garden, in the kitchen, and in life. Then there are times when magic happens…when the day’s harvest instantly speaks to me. This recipe that I’m about to share with you was from such a day of inspiration. It is currently spring, and the asparagus is going crazy in our garden, and after a week of wonderful, soaking rains, our shiitake mushroom logs are fruiting. I also had some beautiful young bunching onions that I pulled, and I was lucky enough to still have some sundried tomatoes from last year. How could this gorgeous array of colors and textures not inspire you…
So let’s start by saying that if you have property, and you like mushrooms, you need to be growing your own mushroom logs. They are spectacular! It is so rewarding to harvest your own mushrooms. This is our first year harvesting shiitake mushrooms, and let’s just say, that after the harvest of mushrooms this spring we will be inoculating MANY more logs!
Also, asparagus…you should be growing your own. You can get it as seeds or as crowns in the spring. It takes a few years to be able to harvest, but the time investment is completely worth it. I mean, that time is going to be passing anyway, right?! Why not have asparagus establishing itself in your garden while time passes.
So, let’s get in the kitchen shall we?
Shiitake, Asparagus, & Sundried Tomato Pasta Recipe
Makes 3 servings
1 Tbsp, Olive Oil
1 Tbsp, Butter (optional, adds another layer of flavor though) – if you omit the butter add a little more olive oil
5-7 Shiitake Mushrooms (the more the better in my opinion), sliced thin
12-18 Asparagus Spears, sliced diagonally, ¼ inch
6-8 Green Bunching Onions, sliced diagonally in ¼ inch (reserve half for topping)
1/3 cup, Sundried Tomatoes, chopped
1-2 cloves, Garlic, finely chopped
½ cup, White Wine or Dry Vermouth
¼ cup, Broth (vegetable or chicken)
¼ cup, Half & Half – optional (I use the cream I have on hand. You can use heavy whipping cream as well…it will just be a heavier flavor)
½ cup, Parmesan Cheese (reserve ¼ cup for topping)
Pasta of any sort, I used Angel Hair
It does not take long to cook this meal, so you want to start by boiling the water for the pasta. By the time the pasta is done, the rest will be ready to go. After you get your pasta going, start by sautéing the mushrooms in the olive oil and butter on medium heat. Once browned add the garlic, sundried tomatoes, asparagus, and green onions. Cook for about a minute (if you like your asparagus really soft, cook for longer). Add the wine (I used dry vermouth) and reduce by half. Add the broth, half & half, and parmesan, and cook for 30 seconds to a minute. Turn the heat off. Once the pasta is done, add the pasta to the pan, and toss with the mushroom and asparagus mixture. Put it in a bowl and top with parmesan cheese and green onions. Most importantly…enjoy eating this little bit of spring garden magic!
Weeds. The bane of a gardener’s existence. Well, many gardeners that is. Not all “weeds” are bad though.
What is a weed? A plant whose virtues remain undiscovered.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dandelions: Weeds or Food?
If you go by Emerson, the dandelion (among many other garden “weeds”) is, in fact, not a weed. At least in my yard it isn’t. Here is why you should stop thinking about the dandelion as a weed in your yard…
The leaves, flowers, and roots are all edible!
It is incredibly nutritious. Dandelions are rich in beta-carotene, vitamins C, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus.
Dandelion flowers are one of the first food sources available for bees in the spring.
Dandelion wine. Basically summer in your mouth.
There are many health benefits: digestive aid, diuretic, shown to improve liver function, regulates blood sugar and insulin levels, lowers and controls cholesterol, and boosts the immune system.
More Edible Weeds
Here are some other edible “weeds” that can be found in your garden/yard that you should be using…
Please be aware!!! Anyone that has an allergy to ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, or daisy should avoid dandelion. Also, anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding something new to their diet.
Dandelion Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Makes 1 ½ cups
¾ cup unsalted, toasted (hulled) pumpkin seeds
2-3 cloves garlic
¼ cup fresh parmesan cheese
2 cups loosely packed dandelion greens*
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
sea salt and black pepper to taste
Pulse garlic and toasted pumpkin seeds in food processor until fine. Add parmesan cheese, dandelion greens, and lemon and process. While the processor is running, slowly add the olive oil until the mixture is smooth.
Season to taste.
* If you are harvesting dandelion greens from a lawn, please take care that it has NOT been treated with chemicals.