Les and Donna Abel of the Michigan Garlic Farm shared information about their 35,000 hardneck garlic plants that are planted, weeded and harvested by hand on their farm in Livingston County, where they do not use pesticides or herbicides. The hardneck garlic is particularly interesting because it must be grown by hand and cannot be mechanically farmed.
Based on over 25 years of growing gourmet garlic, the Abels talked about the differences between hardneck (or topset) and softneck garlic and between bulbs and scapes. Of the many cultivars of garlic, the Abels grow Northern Jewel, a variety from the purple stripe group. Les and Donna discussed growing (popping, planting in October/November, fertilizing, mulching and watering), harvesting in June/July, cleaning, drying, curing, storing (including freezing, but not refrigerating) and replanting.
The Abels sell their garlic products—bulbs, granules and powders (regular or smoked), braids and scapes—at farmers markets in Ann Arbor, Brighton, Canton, Dearborn, Farmington, Howell, Milford, Pittsfield and Saline. On June 11, they sold fresh scapes and dehydrated products. The Michigan Garlic Farm website contains extensive information including recipes at http://www.michigangarlicfarm.com/Recipes.html.