Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Furnace Hills Coffee Storefront and the Great Garlic Pull

That sounds like a great title for a tweener novel. Well, maybe swap out the word "storefront" for something more compelling. And I'd love for it to portend riveting character development and plot twists in what follows, punctuated with juvenile humor, but really, I just have multiple small things to write about and figured I'd slam them all together. But maybe my epic battle with the garlic will hold your attention.

Remember around Christmas time I wrote about two of my favorite local businesses for hot drinks - Sweet Simplici-tea for tea in Sykesville and Furnace Hills Coffee roasters in Westminster for, well, coffee. At the time, Dave Baldwin of Furnace Hills had acquired a storefront to roast and sell coffee from on Westminster's Main Street. For those familiar with the area, you can throw a rock from their place at 71 West Main Street and the Carroll Center for the Arts. It took a bit longer than they hoped, but they have opened for retail sale. Yesterday I had a chance to run by and pick up some freshly roasted Ethiopian Coffee. Dave was out, but I chatted a bit with Erin and took a few photos. The store hours are a bit irregular still, but you can always send them a note via Facebook. They also post there when the store is open later. As I understand, they are generally there on Monday and Wednesday 8-3:30, at a minimum, and they are still at the downtown Westminster Farmer's Market on Saturdays. Furnace Hills is still providing great locally roasted coffee, focused on providing a long-term income for Erin, who lives with Downs Syndrome, at very affordable prices. Here's a few pictures I snapped of the store.
Erin at the store

The new large roaster they have at the storefront

Furnace Hills Coffee at 71 West Main Street, Westminster, MD

After hemming and hawing a bit, or a lot, I finally pulled my garlic this past week. From everything I've read, which is not insignificant, deciding when to harvest garlic is quite an art. You are trying to balance leaving them in the ground to increase the size of the bulbs with pulling them before they've lost the protective outer coatings. There is lots of lore surrounding the perfect time to pull them, mostly having to do with how many leaves are brown, but in the end, nothing is really hard core science. If you yank them early, you get small cloves with too much outer coatings and it reduces the storage capacity of the bulb. If you yank to late, the coatings are gone, the cloves will start pulling away from the bulb, and, no surprise, it reduces the storage capacity of the bulb. So, what to do??! this is my first year with garlic, so what I did was read a lot. The Maryland Cooperative Extension says that most garlic in Maryland should be pulled around July 1st. Garlic is grown generally in more nothern climates, so as you read on the Internet, you'll see that most websites recommend pulling from early July through late August.  The key is the browning foliage.  Because I live in the woods, I'm usually about two weeks behind the neighborhood at the bottom of my hill. Of course, one might reasonably ask why you are growing garlic in the woods in the first place. Well, you certainly can't grow it if you don't try. So, I tried.
I made this!

I tried hardneck garlic, Red Chesnuk variety.  Hardneck garlic produces scapes that you can harvest and use in salads and stir frys while the garlic is maturing. But, it doesn't have anywhere near the storage life of the much smaller-cloved softneck varieties. In my case, the reason I tried this variety was because I ordered so late nothing else was available. Lesson learned. If you want to grow garlic, order early, like now. If you have sun and semi-decent soil, and you like garlic, I highly recommend it. It must have the largest payoff for effort reward of any annual I've grown, and it is quite cost effective.

Here's how it breaks down. A friend and I split a 1 lb order from Big John's Garden - an organic garlic and shallot farm - in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Why him? Well, I had just vacationed last year in that area and it's beautiful and he's organic. That's all. He's got a cool website, lots of variety (now, not in September), and was very responsive. He has these sampler packages, which naturally I missed out, ordering as late as I did. In any case, with shipping our 1 lb of Red Chesnuk was $27. I can't recall exactly if we split this evenly, but in any case, I ended up planting around 40 cloves myself. All you do is split the bulbs into individuals cloves, and put them in the ground a few inches under. Then mulch around them with straw or something. Garlic can not compete with other weeds, so if you don't want to be tied to weeding, you must mulch. One bale of straw will be plenty for Fall and then re-mulching in Spring. Then, no weeding. With the hardnecks, you remove the scapes as they come up in early June. Then you watch your foliage, and when it is 1/3 brown, or 1/2 brown, or when there are 5 brown left, or some other magical formula, you use a garden fork to go underneath the cloves and loosen them from their death grip on the earth. Having done that, you just pull gently, shake off the dirt, and let them dry in the house for about 3 weeks to cure the skins. If you try to pull them directly out of the ground, you'll be very sad. I am quite certain that my sneaky little garlic cloves tried to dig themselves in deeper during the winter... some of them were desperately difficult to get out of the ground.
Straight out of the ground - you can see the brown foliage

Ok, so I shelled out about $13-15.  If you buy organic garlic from the farmer's market, you are going to pay $1-3 per bulb based on size. based on the unrelenting reality that I have little sun exposure, most of my bulbs were pretty small. Still, when I added it up, I harvested about $50 worth of garlic this week. Not bad.  We also harvested my friend's garlic... the same original bulbs... but with a lot more sun...hers were big and plump... and I'd say easily $80-100 worth of garlic. Not bad at all. So, I already have plans to make a raised bed on the property where I have a bit more sun. This year, I want to try a softneck variety and we'll see what happens.
Mine are curing in the basement on paper
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.


  1. And fresh garlic is sooo good! I get mine from Filaree Garlic Farm in Okanogan - get the sampler pack for the different kinds. Order soon - Filaree Farm is sold out of several varieties already.

  2. I harvested mine last week (or maybe it was the week before) and it is good to hear about your first harvest since I had some of the same worries you did. Now reading what you said, I'm even more happy that I pulled them and didn't wait, because they were starting to lose their outer coat. I'm still trying to decide what kinds I want for next year.

    Maybe I'll get to see you at knit group this weekend!