"Under the earth the miracle happened..." - Pablo Neruda
Of all the magical crops we grow here at Green Valley Community Farm, perhaps no others enchant us more than the alliums.
And of the 11 allium varieties we grow (from tender scallions to sweet Walla Walla onions) no other enchants us more than garlic.
We remember the cool November day this year's garlic crop was planted. We remember the low light, the sun just trimming the doug firs on the Western hills, the long fall shadows, and the brisk air. A sweet crew of members joined us that day. Our cat Bilbo who was just a kitten.
Together we popped the cloves from their mother bulbs and held them in our hands; vulnerable, alone, like pale half moons; with trepidation we placed them into the autumn soil, thinking of the cold wet winter ahead. It felt like a prayer.. and an improbable one. We mulched those beds extra thick. And then we left.
We closed the gates. The Sun went south. The Winter constellations turned overhead.
And out there, on the East facing slope of High Garden, the cloves slumbered. They slumbered through the longest nights of the year, and through the battering early storms of Winter.
And then one day, deep down under the straw and soil, unbeknownst to anyone, they awoke.
In mid January, "clumsy green stems appeared," and we watched in awe as, day after day, week after week, "leaves were born like swords in the garden."
But we never dared to ask what lay below, and certainly never looked -- out of modesty, out of superstition, out of longing, not wanting to break the spell or to disturb the magic occurring there. We'd walk by the garlic patch whistling a tune, looking at the horizon, as if nothing was growing there, only once in a while stealing a furtive, hopeful glance at the unfurling greenery, and swelling stems.
"... and the earth heaped up her power."
In the mounting heat and elongated days of late Spring, scapes uncurled out of the hardnecks like giddy harbingers. And further along, as if on cue to some mysterious power, the green arching leaves begin to brown. Stalks swelled, and finally, leaves begin to brown and die.
That is when we begin to actually look at our garlic plants, but still standing helplessly in our world, above, with furrowed brows earnestly, attentively, counting leaves, like counting rosaries. And finally, one day, with held breath and a prayer in our hearts, we trust a spade into earth, heaved up, heard the crackling of roots breaking from earth, and we lifted up from "the secrecy of the dark earth"... garlic!
See you in the fields,
David & Kayta
*Italicized quotes from the poem Ode to the Onion by Pablo Neruda