Being a garlic farmer requires a whole bunch of patience.
Planting the cloves takes place in late October; harvesting comes in July.
Knowing and enjoying the slow farming of garlic around Salida are truck farmers Tiffany and Mike Collette, who live on a couple of acres near Scanga Meat Co. with their two yellow Labradors, Henry and Glen.
“We are fans of everything garlic,” Tiffany said. “We have a collection of garlic books.”
Their collection includes Stanley Crawford’s “Garlic Testament,” written on his farm in Dixon, outside Taos, in northern New Mexico.
The Collettes own Rocky Mountain Garlic LLC, currently farming a half-acre plot with 9,000 garlic plants they planted last fall and will carefully dig from their slumber this month – all by hand.
In the ground, the Collettes have hard-neck varieties of Bogatyr, Khabar, Romanian Red, Spanish Roja, Korean Red, extra-hardy German White, Choparski and Chesnook Red.
Their soft necks include French Heirloom, California White and Kettle River Giant.
“We were introduced to garlic in 2010 and have been growing it for the last eight years, starting with less than a hundred and growing our seed stock every year,” the Collettes said. “We hope to almost double to about 16,000 plants for next season.”
Like author and garlic expert Crawford in New Mexico, the Collettes take their crop in their pristine 1971 VW bus to the Salida Farmers Market Saturday mornings at Alpine Park.
They sell their garlic crop in its dried form and also as decorative braids. They offer a sampling of their garlic pesto and the recipe. They also offer duck eggs from their flock of six.
“We keep ducks for eggs and their help with bugs in the garden,” said Tiffany. “We rotate the garlic with potatoes and fava beans.
“We love garlic most for its flavor when eaten raw or cooked. However, we love growing garlic because it is so beautiful. It’s one of the first things to emerge from the ground in springtime,” she said.
“The leaves are a blue-green color, and as they mature the hard-neck garlic starts to form a flower. The flower head, also called a scape, seems to follow the sun’s path, east to west, every day. The flower head doesn’t get to stay on long; we snip it to encourage more energy into bulb formation,” she added.
When they’re not doing farm chores, Mike works for Monarch Mountain as a ski patroller in winter and Colorado Parks and Wildlife in summer as a river ranger with Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. Tiffany works for Dr. Ralph Wentz, local foot and ankle specialist, as a back office assistant.
Like many others in the Upper Arkansas River Valley, Mike and Tiffany came for whitewater thrills.
“We spent a summer season training to be river guides in Salida in 2007. Then we moved around to Winter Park, Fayetteville, W. Va., and South Lake Tahoe, Calif., before settling down in Salida in 2015,” she said.
They are originally from Hudson, Ohio.