back from the brink

(From Karen in Southern California.)

Last fall, your son Brian gave me a head of heirloom garlic to plant that he said you are trying to bring back from near extinction, and I wanted to report how it is going here in Southern California. I put the head of garlic in the fridge for a few months because I do not have a yearly chill to the extent that you have in Idaho. Once the days started to get longer (daylight savings time), I planted them …

… into a pot so I could protect and watch over them. Last night, we had a lovely, light rain, and today I noticed the garlic is flourishing! I am so happy. What variety is this garlic? I just call it MaryJane right now … Anything else I should do to guarantee this garlic flourishes in my mild temperate climate?

Love to you & yours!
Karen, Farmgirl #89

Hi Karen!

Both the softneck “Butters” garlic (ideal for garlic braids) and the hardneck “MaryJane” garlic (hardneck means it produces a scape) are rare varieties that I’ve slowly brought back into production. From 60 different varieties that I’ve been experimenting with, these two are the best. They were originally found in the outback of the Soviet Union by Rich Hannan, the former director of the Western Region U.S. Department of Agriculture Germplasm Bank, located in Pullman, Washington.

I’ve grown both varieties here for almost 10 years, “sizing them up” every year and multiplying my stock. For the last few years, our crop has fallen off a bit and, as you know, we have been out of stock, but I am pleased to hear that the few heads we could send out to those on the waiting list were put to good use. There is nothing special to do in your climate zone, just as usual, give it lots of love!

  1. Eileen Widman says:

    On our first Farm Stay way back when you were brand new to farm stay, you sent me home with a few heads of a lovely hard neck garlic. I loved it but do not know which variety it was. I am now growing some very nice hard neck garlic but would like to get some of yours to grow as well. Can you put me on the list for this one when there is some available?
    I remember it and have not been able to find one as nice.

    • MaryJane says:

      I’m happy to send you some Eileen. What I will have this year is MaryJane hardneck garlic. That is what I have growing in my trough gardens.

  2. Eileen Widman says:

    What size are your trough gardens? I have raised bed gardens that are 4 by 8 feet and have trouble with underground creatures eating my garlic, and potatoes. Troughs would eliminate this problem. Do you drill drain holes in yours?

  3. MJB – have I told you how much you mean to me lately? Probably not. Let me rectify! Love you.

  4. drMolly says:

    Pardon me MaryJane, but it is “germplasm” not “-plasma”. Anyway, I am the curator of the Phaseolus Germplasm Collection and work at the WRPIS here in Pullman.
    I am ALWAYS glad to hear about people who want to help with the preservation of old varieties (as well as wilds & others) of vegetables & grains.

    Anyone who is interested in this matter NEVER hesitate to contact us here at WPRIS.

    • MaryJane says:

      Oh dear, I laughed out loud when I read your comment. Want a job as a proofreader? Will go and fix my blunder immediately! Thank you for your IMPORTANT work Dr. Molly! I am forever grateful.

  5. Nancy D'Ascenzo says:

    I would like to begin growing my own garlic. But, I want some of YOUR really good garlic! How can I purchase a few seeds to get started?

  6. anne walker says:

    Love your trough planters. And garlic is next on my list to try… I tried the link for your instructions to set them up, but it no longer works. Do you have another updated link that works? Many thanks!

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