The Garlic Underground Encourages Growth of the Popular Allium
“If your friends are bothered by your garlic breath, get new friends.”
That quip by Illinois garlic guru John Swenson is a favorite of Oconomowoc garlic farmer Glenn Borucki and graces the website for his business, The Garlic Underground. Borucki, who owns the farm with his wife, Lynn, specializes in seven varieties of heirloom and gourmet garlic for seed or culinary use, as well as garlic scapes.
Borucki was always an avid gardener while working as a machinist and later as a cabinetmaker and construction project manager, and Lynn home cans and pickles produce. While perusing a seed catalog, he noticed garlic. Always willing to try new things, he soon learned to grow garlic and harvested about 20 pounds a year, giving most of it to friends and family. About four years ago, he increased the amount of garlic he grew so he could sell it online. “There’s a lot of interest in garlic right now,” he said, “and garlic is a pretty dependable crop to grow.”
Borucki uses about one-third of an acre of his five-acre property to grow garlic. He says that may not seem like a lot of space, but the area yields about 1,200 pounds. Garlic is categorized softneck and hardneck. “The softneck is what you’d find in a store,” he said. “It keeps better, and if you grow garlic, you should have at least one kind of softneck. It’s also milder. But everyone loves the hardneck; it’s very colorful, and you use less in cooking because it has a lot of bite.”
Customer favorites include Georgian Crystal, German Porcelain, Amish Rocambole, Inchelium Red and Siberian, a productive variety with purple stripes. Borucki said his personal favorite is the popular Romanian Red. Garlic is sold for $16 per pound on the website or on the farm by appointment, and Borucki will mix and match varieties.
He also sells garlic scapes, the flower bud of the garlic plant. Scapes have soared in popularity in recent years, featured in trendy restaurants and prestigious culinary magazines. They have a sweet garlicky flavor and offer artistic presentation. Borucki recommends using scapes in pesto. However, scapes have a narrow harvest window; in Wisconsin’s zone 5 climate, it’s early to mid-June. Borucki said scapes also freeze well for use during other seasons; regular garlic, on the other hand, should never be refrigerated, as this will cause it to sprout and turn bitter.
Much of Borucki’s business is geared toward people who want to grow garlic. To grow, he recommends starting with garlic cloves two inches or larger, and to plant in well-drained soil in a space that gets lots of sun. “And like growing anything, use good organic growing matter,” he adds. He uses organic growing methods and is considering applying for organic seal certification.
While he cannot make any health claims, there’s lots of research available and proof throughout history that garlic has antibiotic properties and is just plain good for the body. To get the best benefits, it should be eaten raw.
The Garlic Underground’s garlic was harvested by the 4th of July, and after being cleaned and trimmed, Borucki cures it for approximately four weeks before opening the website for sales. He estimates the garlic will be ready for purchase around mid August to early September.
For more information, visit thegarlicunderground.com.