Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Getting my hands dirty

Last year, when I was writing a cozy mystery set on a garlic farm, I was obsessed with garlic. I researched varieties, and read the blogs of garlic farmers and sort of combined all the various bits of information into one ideal garlic farm for my character to own.

I do grow my own garlic, enough for three households, and it just so happened that I was working on one of the garlic-farm story's drafts right at planting time (October). I got a little carried away with my planting, as if I were the farmer in the story and needed to produce enough garlic to sell in bulk. In addition to the variety and quantity that I usually plant, I added about six plants of a new variety, and then planted a couple rows (each containing 50 or more plants) of the old variety to test a theory I have about growing them from the bulbils (like seeds, but technically not seeds). And then I still had some left-over bulbils, and I just kind of scattered them in an abandoned part of the garden. We're going to be drowning in garlic this July, although that's not such a bad thing.

And then I started plotting a sequel that will involve rhubarb, and I found out that there are close to 200 named varieties, many of them maintained in test gardens in Palmer, Alaska. Few of these varieties have ever been the subject of any significant breeding programs, so, on behalf of my character, I started daydreaming about establishing a collection of heirloom varieties that could then be tested and improved. 

It's perhaps fortunate that very few of those varieties are available for sale, or instead of six plants (three varieties), including two I bought while researching the story, I'd have as many rhubarb plants as I have of garlic!

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