The Garlic Farm

Colin Boswell - The Garlic Farmer


7th April 2014 - Grower's Update! (Photo's to follow)

Keep an eye on your garlic through April. It's the critical month when it will determine it's size according to the resources available. So keep it watered, weeded and hoed. Keep moving the earth around it. That brings moisture and oxygen to its roots and disturbs the onion fly eggs laid near the stem.

If you haven't given it 3oz per Sq yd of Sulphate of Potash, work some in around the plants now. Sulphur will give some protection against rust which may arrive by the end of the month.

Our own crops have come through the winter's great surfeit of water very well. The new hardnecks from Czech and Ukraine (Porcelains and Marbled Purple Stripes) with their broad leaves prostrate on the ground all winter, showing how they would have survived on a sparse mountain slope under snow in Central Asia, are now lifting up into the intense Isle of Wight spring sun.

Elephant Garlic looks well ahead of last year. Late planted Spring silverskins Solent, Tuscany and Picardy are marking the rows and we can make a judgment on them in May.

Visit us to see our display field of garlic trials, wheat and wild flowers, enclosed by a wattle fence, as it might have been 3,000 years ago.

March 2014

Traditionally March comes in like a lamb and out like a lion. Today is March 20th, there is a cold easterly blowing and it looks right.

However as the daffodils have bloomed, so everything has been transformed and our garlic crop really looks quite promising and might even be early - perhaps Elephant Garlic ready first week in June?

 I have just returned from the first World Garlic Congress in Madrid where I was very pleased and honoured to be the opening speaker. Twenty nationalities were present over two days we began to feel the way forward.



Those of you who follow our activities looking for the "Mother of all Garlic" will know garlic originates in the Garlic Crescent from Eastern Turkey to Kazakhstan. Many of the garlic types still found there produce flowering heads that can be manipulated in a laboratory into producing true seed or even in the garden of enthusiastic amateurs. The seed is similar to an onion and takes 12 to 18 months to grow.

Man has probably been cultivating garlic for at least 10,000 years. Garlic could even have been the first plant man learned cultivate. The result of our association with garlic for so long as a cultivated and not a wild plant is that much of its genetic diversity is in danger of being lost as communities around the globe give up growing their historical local types and resort to purchasing probably cheap Chinese garlic.

The ability to revert some garlic to its wild state and produce true seed is an exciting one for all of us who note the susceptibility of many garlic types to disease, viruses and within the major softneck types a lack of differentiation due to their all coming from a narrow shared genetic base.

I will be writing more on this as we visit and learn more from contacts made at the Garlic Congress.

If you are keen to experiment yourself producing true seed, it can be done! Have a look at Ted Jordan Meredith's blog http://garlicseed.blogspot.co.uk/p/growing-garlic-from-true-seed.html

To do this you will need varieties of the Purple Stripe or Porcelain type hard neck garlic. The Garlic Farm will be carrying at least two types that may enable you to do this, in their catalogue this year - Red Donetz (politics in the Ukraine and Russia permitting) and Red Czech. If you still have stock of Chesnok Wight growing then this may also allow some experimentation.



Away from the technical, we have been working hard around the Garlic Farm with my daughter Natasha and son in law Barnes who have both joined the team, creating wild flower meadows and garlic trials for all to see, protected by traditional wattle fences made from chestnut, hazel and alder, exactly as they would have been 3,000 years ago.

Come and see us from July onwards and see the effect!

We're all looking out for the first early asparagus, projected for the first week in April.

Colin Boswell




February 2014

IT’S ALL ABOUT GARLIC!

Colin has just returned from the first ever World Garlic Congress in Madrid at which he was the keynote speaker. He lectured on the history and origins of garlic to almost 200 garlic experts and it was a great success. The big talk in the garlic world is the growing of garlic from true garlic seed rather than propagating the individual cloves. There are many potential benefits to this approach, more news will follow on our website and social media in the coming weeks.


This month also saw the start of the tourist season here on the Island, we passed a great half term week and funday, with lots of children coming to the farm. Using garlic as a medium for general education might not seem like an obvious approach, but actually it's great. You can learn about eco-systems, agriculture, food and cooking and so much more all through the humble yet mighty bulb. You can see what we got up to on our YouTube channel...

Caribbean Style Tilapia Ingredients (serves 2)

2 whole Tilapia, fillets only

2 tbsp Cheeky Monkey chutney

3 cloves garlic, crushed

olive oil

1 red chilli, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 180°C. Mix together the chutney, garlic and chilli. rub a little oil on the skin sides of the fillets, and place on baking tray. Carefully spread the chutney mixture over the fillets making sure not to go to close to the edges of the fillets. Bake in the oven for around 12 minutes, or until flesh flakes away from skin. Place the fillets under a hot grill to brown slightly (if required). Serve with Caribbean style coconut rice and peas.

Cheese & Chutney Muffins Ingredients: 250g s.r flour & 1 tsp baking powder, 180ml milk, 120ml olive oil, 2 eggs, chutney, 300g Parmesan

Preheat oven to 190°C. Mix together all ingredients, adding grated parmesan. Spoon into greased muffin pan and add a little chutney to the centre of each muffin and swirl. Bake for 10-15 mins.



January 2014

ROLL ON SPRING!

Well, we're still waiting for a dry enough spell to get the last of our Solent Wight planted out. Luckily some of our best harvests have come from planting our Solent Wight as late as mid February, so we're still very hopeful.

January was a surprisingly busy month for us here at the farm. As well as planning the field layouts and crops for the Summer, we're also looking at starting a very small Eco Camping experience!  So we’ve been busy researching compost loos and solar showers - watch this space for more info!



The Super Bowl season may be over for now... but did you know - in America many restaurants offer Super Bowl dishes on their menus, and would you believe the customary "Garlic Fries" are by far the most popular.

An astoundingly simple combination of chips and garlic, that is yet to catch on in restaurants here.

These really are delicious so this month we would like to offer a simple recipe for making your own that will not disappoint.

Garlic Fries - serves 2-3

Ingredients
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 tbsp sunflower oil
3large baking potatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp of finely chopped parsley

We recommend very lightly cooking the garlic but also works brilliantly tossed in raw garlic! Preheat oven to 210°C. Heat the garlic and oil in a small saucepan over medium heat for 1 minute. Drain garlic from the oil.

Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch sticks. In a large bowl, coat potatoes with warm garlic oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Drizzle a baking sheet with sunflower oil and spread out potatoes. Bake until golden and crisp, about 35 minutes.

Remove potatoes from the tray and sprinkle over parsley, garlic and additional salt to taste.   Serve immediately, of course we recommend serving these delicious fries with our Garlic Mayonnaise or Tomato Ketchup with Garlic and Chilli.


December 2013

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Well, the festive fun is over but what a time it was. Record amounts of garlic got consumed along with plenty of other considerably less healthy things...

The weather has been absolutely crazy down here on the Isle of Wight as one incredible storm after another batters our coastline. We've been fighting to keep the Autumn planted garlic in the ground as the torrents of water keep trying to wash entire fields away. Hopefully we're through the worst of it... and the majority of the crop has come through unscathed. Now we just need a long enough dry spell to allow Kev to get the tractor out into the field and we can begin with the Spring planting of primarily Solent Wight and a couple of other later varieties.


This is a noticeably quieter time on the farm as well as the Island generally and we greatly look forward to making the most of it. Dreaming up new garlic products and ways we can improve upon existing ones. We've got new garlic seasoning rubs and chilli pork scratchings on the way to name just a few.

If you've got a burning garlic idea that you'd like to share with us we'd love to hear about it. Maybe we can make it a reality!


November 2013

NEW! NEW! NEW!

The garlic elves have been working pretty hard this month to get lots of new garlic goodies out in time for Christmas unfortunately a few items may not make it in time for Christmas, but they will certainly be available to start the New Year with lots of garlic goodness. Asides from the new sauces, purées, ketchups and dressings our newest and perhaps most exciting product gracing the shelves of the farm shop just in time for Christmas is…Black Garlic.

We're really pleased to be working with the Black Garlic Company to create our very own Garlic Farm Black Garlic. If you've never tried it, it really is quite unexpectedly delicious and also amazingly good for you. Black Garlic is full of umami and complex flavours that will take your taste buds on a gastronomical adventure. The initial bite is mild, followed by burst after burst of caramelised sweetness, rich liquorice-ness finishing off with a slightly more savoury note. Unlike raw garlic its' health benefits are not to be found in Allicin. Black Garlic has 198 units per gram of antioxidants compared with 119 units per gram in regular garlic. Plus, with the added bonus of no bad breath. It's certainly no garlic replacement but it is a great product in itself. We really do hope you get just as much pleasure from experimenting with this new ingredient. We would love to hear what culinary delights you have mastered up with Black Garlic.


We're also very pleased to include our garlic farmers' wall planner this month, which will help those of you growing your own garlic to keep track of what to do next to ensure you get a great crop. For those who have not planted we have several planting selections available to order online. Some seed garlic can even be planted right up to February and still give you a great crop by the end of July.


October 2013

NEW! Heritage Variety

Much garlic has been planted across the UK in the last couple of months and we have really enjoyed interacting with avid garlic growers up and down the country exchanging ideas and sharing experiences.

It's still not too late to get garlic in the ground if you haven't done so already. The old lore of planting on the shortest day has worked for many in the past even though we opt for a much earlier planting these days.

We have a new heritage variety of garlic, which we are very excited about; Red Czech that produces very strong long keeping bulbs. We have already started planting this in the fields and once harvested and dried, we hope to be able to bring you this exclusive variety of garlic in your membership box next year - with it's deep strong flavour we know this one will definitely be worth the long wait - roll on next harvest!


If you're looking to visit The Garlic Farm this autumn be sure to check out our holiday cottages - Mersley Farm Cottages where we have some amazing last minute deals on short breaks... It really does make for a perfect relaxing weekend away, with beautiful walks and delicious meals in the renowned Garlic Farm restaurant, an ideal getaway before the hustle and bustle of Christmas begins.



September 2013

WOW! and foraging...

Can you believe the Garlic Lovers' Club is now in its 6 month? What started out, as just a little idea has now become an ever increasingly popular club membership, right across the UK, and of course, our success is all down to you, our fellow garlic lovers' both longstanding and new.

With The Garlic Festival and the "Hard On" sandwich feeling like a distant memory we are well under way with the planting of our Elephant crop. We have found that planting Elephant garlic during the early Autumn has proved to be most successful in terms of size and flavour. With our largest ever bulb harvested this year, reaching a massive 18cm in diameter.

Our seed garlic is being dispatched as we write so if you are thinking of growing your own garlic this year now is the time to order your seed.

We have a great new seed variety available 'Vallelado', and more than 10 other varieties that have all been tried and tested in the UK.

Foraging at the Garlic Farm


September is also the start of the foraging season and Charlie, our head chef, has already been out in the garden collecting the first mushrooms, plums, blackberries and apples. We can't wait to sample the new Autumn menu, yuuummmm!!

<span style="text-decoration: underline;">September 2013</span>
<div>
<p><span style="font-size: 16px;">WOW! and foraging...</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 16px;">Can you believe the Garlic Lovers' Club is now in its 6 month? What started out, as just a little idea has now become an ever increasingly popular club membership, right across the UK, and of course, our success is all down to you, our fellow garlic lovers' both longstanding and new.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 16px;">With The Garlic Festival and the "Hard On" sandwich feeling like a distant memory we are well under way with the planting of our Elephant crop. We have found that planting Elephant garlic during the early Autumn has proved to be most successful in terms of size and flavour. With our largest ever bulb harvested this year, reaching a massive 18cm in diameter.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 16px;">Our seed garlic is being dispatched as we write so if you are thinking of growing your own garlic this year now is the time to order your seed.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 16px;">We have a great new seed variety available 'Vallelado', and more than 10 other varieties that have all been tried and tested in the UK.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 16px;">September is also the start of the foraging season and Charlie, our head chef, has already been out in the garden collecting the first mushrooms, plums, blackberries and apples. We can't wait to sample the new Autumn menu, yuuummmm!!</span></p>
</div>
<span style="text-decoration: underline;">September 2013</span>
<div>
<p><span style="font-size: 16px;">WOW! and foraging...</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 16px;">Can you believe the Garlic Lovers' Club is now in its 6 month? What started out, as just a little idea has now become an ever increasingly popular club membership, right across the UK, and of course, our success is all down to you, our fellow garlic lovers' both longstanding and new.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 16px;">With The Garlic Festival and the "Hard On" sandwich feeling like a distant memory we are well under way with the planting of our Elephant crop. We have found that planting Elephant garlic during the early Autumn has proved to be most successful in terms of size and flavour. With our largest ever bulb harvested this year, reaching a massive 18cm in diameter.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 16px;">Our seed garlic is being dispatched as we write so if you are thinking of growing your own garlic this year now is the time to order your seed.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 16px;">We have a great new seed variety available 'Vallelado', and more than 10 other varieties that have all been tried and tested in the UK.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 16px;">September is also the start of the foraging season and Charlie, our head chef, has already been out in the garden collecting the first mushrooms, plums, blackberries and apples. We can't wait to sample the new Autumn menu, yuuummmm!!</span></p>
</div>

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?!



May 2013

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.



October 2012

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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