The Perfect Farm Combo: Garlic and Mountains
Updated: Dec 26, 2021
Harvest time always presents Gallatin County, Montana as its picturesque best.
Farmers are busy harvesting wheat, canola, potatoes, dry beans, field peas, lentils, safflowers, mustard, squash, alfalfa, and garlic. The air is filled with optimism for a big harvest in the county.
Jere Folgert seems content with the garlic harvest from his family farm of two acres not far from Bozeman.
This year he reaped more than 1200 pounds of hardneck garlic. Hardnecks (Allium sativum ssp. ophioscorodon) are closer to wild garlic, with complex flavors. These are the garlic that reflect the regional soil and weather patterns. Virtually all cooks and chefs state that hardnecks have a superior flavor to softnecks.
Some local garlic growers celebrated the harvest with a fresh roast of venison and elk roasted with 15 bulbs of garlic. Fresh sweet peas were combined with kale and swiss chard to make a scrumptious salad. The celebration was highlighted with homemade roasted garlic ice cream treats. "Czosnek! It's harvest time, and having fresh garlic is an auspicious practice that expresses our wish for a surplus harvest," said one Bozeman resident (with Polish heritage) who was helping with the harvest. Czosnek is the Polish word for garlic. "It is a fun way to gather together and celebrate our gains," she said.
The fertile land, rich water resources, and climate make things ideal for growing garlic in Gallatin County, Montana.
"Hardneck garlic requires a cold period, called vernalization, to divide and form into bulbs. When garlic is planted in the fall, Mother Nature takes care of vernalization over the winter," said Jere Folgert. "We get the perfect combination of cold winters, spring moisture, and beautiful solar radiation," he concluded.
Unfortunately, our beloved college town has a problem: It’s too popular. Bozeman and surrounding county lands close to Yellowstone National Park, with Montana’s busiest airport, has been one of the country’s fastest-growing micropolitan areas. As more people move to Bozeman and Gallatin County, more open space and farmland is converted into homes, townhouses, and condos. Numerous groups are working together to try and save as much open space, agriculture, and farmland, but it is not an easy task.
"Nothing lasts forever, so I'm holding onto this moment," said Jere.