August 2013 The farm has been a hectic hive of happenings over the summer holidays with lots of things to see and do, it's definitely been a hit with couples and families alike.
We've also just had an amazing Garlic Festival weekend with lots of cooking demos, live music, strange garlic food combinations and a celebrity chef. The "Hard On" Sandwich, (ask Colin) was a huge hit, with us almost selling out on the first day, not to mention all the delicious gourmet food served up by The Garlic Farm Kitchen, all washed down with our Garlic Beer, definitely a garlic lovers' heaven...And we just can't wait for next year, so we can do it all over again with the aim to make it even garlickier.
Our flagship variety Solent Wight is now ready, and it's flavour is as pungent as ever. As this variety is known for it's longevity it will keep for up to 9 months, so will keep us all in good supply of garlic, until the first harvest of our early varieties next May. We'll be planting the first of the Elephant garlic crop in a couple of weeks. Wow! Can't believe how quickly it's come round, this year's glorious summer really has flown by.
July 2013 Media interest in garlic always intensifies over the next few months, as it comes in to season. We have just started lifting beautiful large Elephant Bulbs and our Provence Wight (large juicy Mediterranean soft-neck) and Chesnok Wight (very strong beautiful hard-neck from the Ukraine) look exceptional this year - even if I do say so myself!
The Hampton Court Flower Show starts in ten days and we are busy preparing the stand. Come and see our Rooftop Garden in the Growing Taste Marquee. It's very different to what we have done in the past but equally eye-catching, we hope. We would love to see all our garlic lovers at the show, and if you would like to talk to us please just ask who is on duty when you arrive. We will all be there over the six days of the Show - so make sure you come down and take a look, and try our new inspired produce, ranging from the Garlic and Herb popcorn to our best selling Garlic Jam.
The famous Garlic Farm Peacocks continue to flourish but sadly our Peahen who hatched five eggs has only two chicks left after predations from crows. However these are now well fledged and should stay the course - we hope to bring you some photos of these soon.
Our Red Squirrel feeders, dispensing hazelnuts all year round, having been going down rapidly recently and no extra red squirrels in evidence. Nighttime surveillance showed two very large badgers at work on the feeders!
June 2013 We've had such a fun and busy time on the farm this month. From hosting two pop-up opera nights which everyone loved, the harvesting of the first green Elephant garlic, new product launches and the Father's Day hamper selling out, and best of all celebrity visits... At the time of writing this we have just been out in the field with Jay Rayner filming for the BBC's The One Show - typically the tractor kept breaking down and Kev our Farm manager, was improvising with as many nuts and bolts as he could find, to get the tractor going just long enough to get the perfect shot! It should be airing mid-July, so keep an eye out.
We fear it may be time to say goodbye to our dear feathered friends. Visitors to the farm will know that we have a number of Peacocks roaming freely. However their constant intense squawks are losing us sleep! Of course, we would certainly miss them, aesthetically speaking, perhaps sleep is a small price to pay for their beauty?!
After what's felt like the longest winter, we are pleased to tell you that it finally feels like spring has sprung here at The Garlic Farm, and that summer may not be too far away. Of course for us this means that the garlic growing season is now in full swing, our first crop of Elephant Garlic is very nearly ready to have their scapes snapped off - these are delicious to eat and taste very similar to garlicky asparagus or green beans, these are wonderful in salads, stir fries or just simply sautéed. By snapping these off we are encouraging larger bulbs to grow - so, we all get the best of both worlds!
If you would love to try garlic scapes, make sure you look out for us at a farmers market near you. Or if you are growing Elephant garlic yourself, you can snap off the flowering stem close to the lower leaves - these really are delicious!
If you come to The Garlic Farm, be sure to look for some silver coins we have recently found. Just out in the field three hundred yards from the farm our dedicated metal detectorist, found coins of Henry 1st and Edward 2nd helping to confirm that after the Romans left the farm continued to be active through the Medieval period where evidence so far has been very light.
But where are the silver coins, you may ask? Last Saturday at a party in the adjoining ancient woodland to celebrate the arrival of the bluebells in a very late spring, I was talking to a very spry 91 year old. "So pleased to see you have tracked how garlic came to the Island in the war via Lysanders flying in from occupied France." Yes, it's a great story I said. Of course, I was there when it happened! She beamed. There? Yes she said. I was four years as a WAAF in the control tower at RAF Tangmere. There were only two of us to go on duty. We saw all the Lysanders going out with agents and supplies and coming back in. I can recall that sack of garlic coming in. The pilot made a call as soon as he landed to warn its onward recipient. I believe that was to the man in Cowes (Bill Spidy). As her story unfolded so did my feeling of a moment of pure gold, putting together slivers of information from 70 years ago.
April 2013 More and more people are excited by garlic. At The Garlic Farm Shop and at farmers' markets, shows and events all over the UK customers are demanding a closer understanding of how this versatile wonder-bulb permeates our lives.
Whether you're cooking with it, growing it, using garlic for your health or just want to exchange views on any aspect of garlic, we want to be in on the conversation - garlic is our life after all!
So with this in mind we thought it was about time we set up our exclusive Garlic Lovers' Club, click here to find out more about the club. Our new club gives you the chance to taste and appreciate the best garlic and garlic inspired products available with very little effort from you, and we'll deliver it to your home or workplace each month.
We would love to hear what our customers think about our garlic and inspired produce and by joining our club you can do just that - let us know what you think of your goodies each month by filling out the score card with your comments and product ratings, and as a thank you for joining the club each month you will get exclusive member only offers to take advantage of, as well many other benefits.
February 2013 The sun is now shining, it has real warmth. The soil is warming up and beginning to “roke”, that is when steam lifts off the plough as it dries, and we follow behind with the garlic planter. As nature gives us a little window to plant our February Solent Wight, we are also planting spring wheat with wild flowers (cornflowers, corn marigolds and corncockle with some field pansy and corn chamomile in the background). We are planting this over the Roman villa and Neolithic sites that archaeologists have just suggested may lie beneath, from their radio scans. Look out for all the excitement at The Garlic Farm this summer!
BBC Radio 4 Food Programme was down with us in January. So provided no more horsemeat gets in the way, it should be broadcast 12.30pm Sunday February 17th. My daughter Natasha, who wrote “Garlic, The Mighty Bulb”, plays a lead part, interviewed by the presenter Sheila Dillon.
If you planted your Elephant Garlic in the early autumn, it should be about 20cm high now. Early Wight and autumn types will be 6-10 cm high whilst Solent, Tuscany and Picardy planted in January will be just emerging.
There is still plenty of time to plant garlic now. You can get excellent results planting garlic right up to early March so, as soon as the weather allows, get out there!
January 2013 Happy New Year to all our followers!
January and we get a clear picture of the year ahead. For our visitors there will be some colorful changes. Karen and Wendy have joined us, beautiful Kune Kunes (New Zealand miniatures) crossed with Gloucester Old Spot. Very friendly, house trained, happy to lie in front of the aga and just love to be scratched. They will be living near the farm shop and restaurant, on the Farm walk, with some of our Highland cows with calves at foot and some sheep. We hope they’ll be as receptive to you as they are to us.
If you didn't manage to plant your garlic in the Autumn then take heart; one garlic-growing secret that every garlic gardener should know is that the best time to plant our most popular Solent Wight garlic is in the Spring. In fact, the Garlic Farm's best crop in the very difficult 2012 year was from Solent Wight planted at the end of February. Given enough space and water (which we weren't short of!), you can get bulbs 75mm/3" across. Plant our Spring garlic varieties - Solent, Picardy or Tuscany as late as early March and you will be thrilled with the size and quality when you harvest in July.
It’s finally stopped raining so perhaps in a few weeks we will start planting our Solent Wight, Tuscany and Picardy and the new soft-neck from Northern Spain, Vallelado.
A wet, wet October and we are still waiting for dry days to plant garlic as I am sure are all of you who want to plant your autumn garlic. Plant your Elephant first and then the autumn types. If the ground is a bit wet, still go ahead. Garlic is quite forgiving.
October 27th is the 70th anniversary of the arrival of our Solent Wight garlic on the Isle of Wight, brought over secretly in an RAF Lysander from German occupied France to nourish the Free French naval crews at Cowes.
This coincides with our Halloween festivities at The Garlic Farm, October 27th and October 31st (check out our what's on section) - all appropriate as garlic came here to assist in banishing evil.
September 2012 September and the advent of autumn. We are planting Elephant Garlic at 17" apart this year so that we continue to get the largest bulbs ever. Once the Elephant is planted we continue with soft-necks Early Wight, Iberian, Provence, Albigensian - followed by Chesnok, Lautrec and other hard-necks.
The wonderful Indian summer has brought out magnificent thornapple plants - datura stramonium. A powerful hallucinogenic, it attracts great interest from some of our North Island visitors so we quietly turn it back into the soil!
In Eastern Europe it is a St Martin's summer. For us this is hugely appropriate as my father, Martin, founder of this business died on September 1st. At his memorial service, we remembered his extraordinary vision and vigour of 50 years ago, establishing the farm and laying the sound base from which The Garlic Farm has grown.
Where did the original Solent Wight garlic come from? Its origins are here at Cowes on the Isle of Wight. From 1940 to 1945 a squadron of Free French Torpedo boats was stationed in Cowes. They drank at the Painters Pub and regularly complained to the landlord, Bill Spidy, about the apocryphal British wartime diet. By 1942 they yearned for French cooking and the whiff of garlic so Bill Spidy searched the Island for garlic with no success. However he knew some of his RAF pilot friends were flying Lysanders at night, landing in central France to deposit SOE agents and munitions and returning home.
On one of these flights, a sack of Auvergne garlic came back to England and into Bill’s hands on the Island. He lived with his family on a small farm in the centre of the Island and so grew the garlic for the Free French who then felt and smelt like self respecting Frenchmen for the rest of the war.
My parents came to live at Mersley Farm, now The Garlic Farm, in the mid 50s, next door to Bill Spidy’s farm at Little Duxmore. My mother Norah began growing some of her neighbour’s garlic in the kitchen garden. I came home to farm in the mid 70s and, as they say, the rest is history.”
You may well find my recent trek to the Northern Turkey in search for Allium Longicuspis, "The Mother of all Garlic" of some interest - watch below.
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