We wondered what the very first plant to peek out of our beds in this unusual January heat wave would be. Not surprisingly, it was the intrepid elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) that we planted as bulbs last October. Although I’ve grown elephant garlic before, this will be the first time I’m growing it for sale.
Seeing the new sprouts reminds me of my first elephant garlic encounter. The story goes that a farmer rented some land at Mason Farm (now Mason Farm Biological Reserve) in Chapel Hill to experiment with a new crop. He plowed it up and planted a lot of elephant garlic. But when he returned to harvest the following spring, the soil had formed such a hardpan of clay that he decided it wasn’t worth the effort. So for years afterwards, you could head over and dig up elephant garlic in the old field (difficult work, but still worth the reward). Luckily our soil is more of a sandy loam, so hopefully we won’t have any problems extracting this wonderful leek relative later this spring.