SEED STORIES: Conti Family Heirloom Garlic

What is that incredible smell?

 Freshly harvested bulbs of the ‘Conti Family Heirloom’ variety in an initial drying stage

Freshly harvested bulbs of the ‘Conti Family Heirloom’ variety in an initial drying stage

It’s fairly obvious that it’s garlic-curing time at Heritage Farm. The air is redolent with the smell of the culinary Allium. Our catalog and Preservation Collection varieties have been harvested, and Heritage Farm staff are now preparing garlic varieties for catalog sale, Exchange distribution, or maintenance planting.

What?!” you say. “I didn’t know Heritage Farm distributed garlic samples from its Preservation Collection through the Exchange!”

It’s true. IA SSE HF currently lists well over 150 varieties in the Yearbook and Online Exchange that members can request. And this year’s harvest is a bumper crop!

Some of the varieties being offered by Heritage Farm even have histories of heirloom stewardship. Take, for example, GARLIC 368, ‘Conti Family Heirloom.’ This variety came to Heritage Farm just a couple of years ago as a donation from Chad Royer of Canton, OH. Chad received his first starts of the variety from his father in-law, Louis Ferretti. Louis, who has maintained the garlic in his garden for decades, received some bulbs from his father’s friend, Germano Conti, in 1950. Germano told the Ferrettis about how he brought the garlic with him when he emigrated from Italy to the US in the 19-teens.

 Germano Conti, immigrant and garlic steward

Germano Conti, immigrant and garlic steward

To request samples of this or any other variety currently listed by IA SSE HF, mail in your Seed Request Form with the appropriate payment by 15 September. We’ll ship your requested samples by the second week in October, at the latest.

Remember, become a member of Seed Savers Exchange to access all of these amazing garlic varieties!


Tips for growing and maintaining garlic:

Because garlic is most often a vegetatively maintained and propagated crop, it is susceptible to acquiring soil-borne pathogens. There are a number of things that you can do to keep pathogens and disease in your garlic bed to a minimum. Here are some tips for growing a healthy and bountiful crop:

  • Move your garlic bed to a new location every year, returning – if necessary – to previous garlic bed locations on a four-year rotation.
  • Distance your garlic from any wild Allium relatives which can act as virus reservoirs.
  • Further isolate your garlic by providing a fallow border around the bed.
  • Keep a close watch as it grows and remove (“rogue”) any diseased plants as soon as they appear.
  • Symptoms of common diseases include stunted growth, deformations, premature senescing (biological aging), yellowing or streaked foliage, rot and/or fuzzy fungal growth.
  • Take the rogued plant material to some location far away from the garlic bed to compost or even burn it.
  • Weed control is critical. Use straw mulch to keep the weeds down.

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.