SEED STORIES: Conti Family Heirloom Garlic

SEED STORIES: Conti Family Heirloom Garlic

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

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Garlic Escapades

Garlic Scape in the Field

Whether blended in a soup, pickled in a mason jar or baked in an omelet, eating is the best way to utilize scapes, a farm and garden byproduct of garlic. Seed Savers Exchange is conducting its first ever evaluation of over 300 garlic varieties in its production garden this year, which means harvesting a lot of scapes for scanning, as well as to ensure the garlic bulbs are adequately plump and ready for replanting in October. Looking out across the half-acre field waving with crowns of silvery green, these several hundred varieties may appear identical to the untrained eye, but in fact differ considerably in size and shape. Many are uniform in their likeness (streaking brown leaves as some had matured early), still others display anthropomorphic qualities unique to their row: one variety like a sumo wrestler, squat and thick, while another resembles the stern form of a lawman. Taken together, the melded identities of Allium sativum are a chorus of opportunity for SSE to learn more about this species (and its flowering appendage) in the Allium genus.

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Our trial field includes both hard and softneck garlics. For those of us new to garlic varieties, softneck garlic doesn’t produce scapes, and generally isn’t as hardy (hence the cognate of its opposite, the “hardneck”), but, it does store better and mature quicker. The bulb size of many hardneck varieties is improved by removing the scape—its flowering stalk which eventually produces bulbils and flowers—hence getting “plump and ready for October." Some varieties, however, don't mind if you leave their scapes on until harvest time, such as those in the Turban group. It just goes to show – the more we learn about each variety’s characteristics, from planting to harvest, the more we’ll understand their preferences, personalities, and how best to make use of them.

Here’s a quick primer on Preservation’s Field & Lab Plant Evaluation

Any characteristic that has a genetic basis is recorded in evaluations at SSE, which, specific to garlic, includes observing and measuring:

1. leaf color 2. leaf posture 3. stalk height (or pseudostem) 4. scape shape (if applicable)

Everything is recorded into Preservation’s database—the hardneck scapes are harvested and scanned into a digital format—and staff can glory in the perk of free scapes for eating!

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Garlic taste tests to follow… meanwhile, check out some of these intriguing recipes, and keep us posted on your favorite uses for scapes!


Garlic Visit the online store to purchase our certified organic seed garlic today. Over 10 varieties to choose from-- They will sell out!


Check out this slide show and cheat sheet for planting your garlic.

Harvest Fest & Soup Recipes

Despite the gloomy weather, Harvest Festival was a cozy event under the post and beams of Heritage Farm’s old barn.  Nearly 300 attendees sampled dozens of different antique apple varieties, heirloom beans, and fragrant roasted garlic.  Tasting over 26 varieties of apples in one place was truly a unique experience.  Apple expert Dan Bussey commented, “I am always amazed that there is no one favorite apple, some visitors really didn’t like Black Gilliflower, one of my favorites.  Taste is so subjective, just another reason this diversity is so important.” Soup cook-off winner Chef Stephen Larson from Quarter/QUARTER, along with SSE's Shannon Carmody and John Torgrimson

Area chefs Jim McCaffrey from McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita, Justin Scardina from La Rana, Mattias Kriemelmeyer from the Oneota Community Coop, and Stephen Larson from Quarter/QUARTER, went head to head in a soup cook-off featuring heirloom garlic varieties.  Chef Stephen Larson from Quarter/QUARTER was this winner.  Check out his winning recipe, or better yet, head over to his restaurant.



Garlic Insanity!!!

©Stephen Larson and QUARTER/quarter Restaurant LLC

Makes about 10 – 12 ounce servings

 For the soup:

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound new crop garlic, cloves separated, peeled and crushed
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh oyster mushrooms (or substitute button mushrooms), divided
  • 2 pounds fresh sweet corn kernels (or use frozen), divided
  • 1/2 pound yellow fleshed potatoes (like Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha hot pepper sauce
  • 6 cups corn cob stock (or use vegetable or chicken stock, or water)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese

Directions:  Melt the butter in a large soup pot over low heat.  Add the garlic then cook it over VERY LOW heat, stirring occasionally, until very lightly golden (about 1 hour).  Meanwhile, trim the stems from the oyster mushrooms and reserve.  Set aside 6 ounces of the mushroom caps for the garnish then add the rest of the caps to the reserved stems.  Once the garlic is done cooking, add the reserved mushrooms stems and cap mixture, 1 1/2 pounds of the corn kernels, salt, sugar, pepper sauce and stock to the soup pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once it has come to a boil, turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 20 minutes (or until the potatoes are very soft).  Meanwhile, make the garnish.  When the soup is done simmering, stir in the cream and cheese then blend in batches on high speed until smooth, passing each batch though a fine strainer, to remove the corn skins, into another pot.  Continue below to finish.

For the garnish and to finish the dish:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Reserved oyster mushroom caps, cut into julienne
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • Reserved 1/2 pound of corn kernels

Directions:  Put the butter into a large skillet over high heat.  When the butter is melted, add the mushrooms and rosemary, and continue to cook over high heat until the mushrooms are lightly colored.  Add the corn and continue to cook until just tender.  Stir into the blended soup and serve hot.

Or try this one from Chef Jim McCaffrey:

Roasted Garlic, Braebern Apple, Sharp Cheddar Cheese Soup

  • 1 Head garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 6 Tbl flour
  • 2 braebern apples, deseeded and cut into eighths
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tbl Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 4 oz. can green chile, chopped
  • Salt to taste.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut tip end of garlic off.  Rub open garlic in kosher salt and sprinkle with olive oil.  Wrap with aluminum foil and bake in oven for forty five minutes. Take cloves out of paper.  Add ¼ cup olive oil to large sauté pan. Saute celery, onions, and carrots until carrots are soft. Add flour and stir it in until slightly browned. Add  garlic cloves. Puree in food processor. Add to large pot. Add two tbl olive oil  to sauté pan and sauté apples until soft.  Puree and add to pot. Add broth and bring to a gentle boil. Turn heat to low and add cream and cheese. When cheese is melted, add remaining ingredients and stir. Enjoy!