Garlic Therapy


Depending on your perspective, the annual autumn garlic planting at Restoration Farm in Old Bethpage is the epilogue of the current growing calendar or a prelude of the season to come.

For several years, the farm has perpetuated a large crop of garlic. CSA members prize the bulbs for their sharp, sweet taste and the pungent ingredient is an important flavor foundation in many dishes.

The garlic is harvested in the heat of July and some is hung and cured in an historic red barn on the grounds of Old Bethpage Village. A percentage of the yield is set aside to plant the garlic crop for the next season. In early November, the call goes out for volunteers to prepare the beds and split the bulbs into cloves for planting.

On a blustery November morning, farm members young and old can be seen clustered around bushel baskets, as if they’re encircling a campfire. It is truly a communal event and the process of “shucking” the garlic bulbs is a rhythmic ritual. You grasp a bulb in your fist, peel away several layers of skin, and massage it in your palms until the cloves split apart. Literally, hundreds of garlic bulbs must be shucked so there are enough cloves to seed two large fields. Along the way, members chat about local politics, the weather and their latest kitchen creations.

The beds are prepared with rakes and a cylindrical drum that leaves precisely drawn dimples in the soil. Cloves are tucked into the ground by hand—one to a dimple—with the narrow point of the clove pointing skyward. With that, the first seeds of the 2014 growing season are sown. During the winter months, each clove will multiply into a plump, stinking rose that will be gathered into a bouquet and handed to members with vegetables at a future summer distribution.

They say garlic has therapeutic benefits, and indeed the garlic planting ritual is good for the soul. For anyone who can’t resist the allure of savory aromas in the kitchen, there’s also an added benefit. Your fingertips are perfumed with the tantalizing scent of garlic for days.

T.W. Barritt blogs at