All posts by Lisa Dermer

Time to Order Garlic and Perennial Onions: How to Pick Which to Grow in Your Garden

by Ira Wallace

If you haven’t yet picked out your garlic and perennial onion stock, now is the time to order while selection is largest. Or you can stop by our booth at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello September 9, 2017, to make your selections in person with our knowledgeable staff available to answer your questions.

Choosing Perennial Onions

yellow potato onions

Perennial onions like yellow potato onions yield very heavily in our region (the mid-Atlantic and Southeast). Consider growing some shallots to add gourmet flair to your garden fare.  For green onions all winter, White Multipliers and Egyptian Walking onions are both good choices. For more info on growing read Garlic & Perennial Onion Growing Guide (PDF)  and our blog post How to Grow Garlic from a Clove can help.

Types of Garlic

For those new to growing garlic the matter of how to pick the best garlic for your garden can be confusing.  You have three main options when selecting a garlic variety: Softneck, Hardneck, and Asiatic.

softneck garlic

Softnecks include silverskin and artichoke types of garlic.  These varieties are the most domesticated.  They are among the easiest to grow, and are among the highest yielding and hold longest in storage.  But be aware: Often softnecks don’t do too well in extremely cold climates. However many gardeners as far north as New York, Washington state and Maine have had good success with Italian softnecks, Inchelium Red and Silverskins which last 9-12 months in good storage conditions.

Inchelium Red, Lorz, Italian Softneck, Red Toch, Nootka Rose, and Silverwhite are a few varieties of our popular softneck garlics.

hardneck garlic

Hardnecks include Rocambole and Topsetting types. These varieties have large bulbs with 5-7 large cloves that are easy to peel.  Hardnecks grow better in colder climates than warmer ones.  Although most hardnecks should be eaten within 4-6 months both Music and Chesnok Red regularly maintain their quality for 7 months or more in good storage conditions here on our central Virginia farm.

Music, Chesnok Red, and German Extra Hardy are popular varieties of Hardneck garlic. Also available in smaller quantities are Romanian Red, Appalachian Red, Turkish Red, Killarney Red and other varieties

Asiatic and Turban types of garlic are now considered a subset of Softnecks but were previously called weakly bolting hardnecks.  These are the first to mature in the garden.  In warm climates they act like Softnecks, whereas in cold climates they act more like Hardnecks. Available varieties include: Maiskji, Russian Inferno and Shilla.

Elephant garlic is not a true garlic but instead is more closely related to leeks. The large bulbs can weigh 1/2 pound or more. The large individual cloves are easy to peel and have a mild sweet flavor. Elephant garlic grows well through the United States from the Canadian border to Florida. It is especially appreciated by growers in south Florida and areas of Texas where true garlic is difficult to grow.

Grow Eggplant this Year

With tomatoes and peppers ubiquitous in vegetable gardens, eggplants are often the nightshade left out. But even if your summers are on the cool side or the short side, you too can have homegrown eggplants. On our farm in central Virginia, shorter season varieties are often our best performing when summer is unusually cool or wet, and their faster-maturing fruits are the first to arrive at the table.

Southern Exposure sells four early-maturing eggplants: Applegreen (65 days, green-white skin), Early Black Egg (65 days, Japanese origin, deep-purple skin), Morden Midget (65 days, Canadian origin, deep-purple skin), and Ping Tung Long (62 days, Taiwanese origin, lavender skin).

I’m partial to long skinny eggplants (I like chopping them into thin half-moons), so Ping Tung Long is my favorite. I find that Asian varieties substitute well in Italian and European recipes. The lavender skins darken with cooking to a purple-tan color.

My current favorite eggplant recipe follows: a Sicilian Caponata. Caponata is vegan and gluten-free, and so full of flavor that no one will notice.

Sicilian Caponata

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s blog. Lebovitz requires deep-frying the eggplant in batches. This oven-roasted version cuts the oil somewhat, and is so much easier, and I think tastes just as good.

6 celery stalks
2 pounds eggplant (Italian or Asian types)
olive oil
1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced (yellow or white will work but red is best)
1 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
1-1/2 cups tomato sauce (as a variation, make a quick, fresh sauce by simmering 3-4 diced Roma-type tomatoes in a small amount of water with salt to taste for 20-30 minutes.)
1/4 cup vinegar (red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey (or to taste)
Chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley for garnish

Roast the Eggplant:
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Trim the stems off the eggplants, halve lengthwise, and slice into 1/2-inch pieces (half-moons work well for long-types, otherwise 1/2 inch cubes).
3. Toss the eggplant pieces with 1/2 to 1 tsp salt and 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil (it will soak up quite a lot). Spread on a baking dish and cook for 30-45 minutes, until the eggplant pieces are soft (easily pierced with a fork) and the skins have begun to darken.

Assemble the Caponata
1. Boil a medium-size pot of water. Cut the celery stalks into 1/2-inch slices. Simmer the celery until just tender, around 7 minutes. Drain and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking.
2. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring frequently until translucent, around 7 minutes. Add the drained celery, olives, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar, and honey and bring to a low boil.
3. Add the eggplant and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring gently.
4. Taste and add additional salt and vinegar as desired. Transfer to a large shallow serving bowl to cool.

Serving: Allow to cool before serving, or refrigerate and serve the next day (this gives the flavors time to meld). Garnish with the chopped parsley to serve. May also be served as bruschetta — spread on bread slices that have been spread with olive oil and oven-toasted.