Aromatic harvest

Aromatic harvest
All one has to do is take a deep breath while standing in the lots behind the Elaine and David Roetman home in Vermillion to know that he isn't in a typical, garden variety vegetable patch.

David's efforts last Friday, July 6, centered on rows of plants located away from the house. Despite temperatures that were climbing towards the 90 degree mark, he kept busy, uprooting the vegetables with a pitchfork.

His work also sent the unmistakable aroma of an Italian restaurant into the air.

It's garlic picking time at the Roetmans.

Vegetable harvest time is nothing new to David and Elaine. They've grown one of the largest gardens in the city limits, easily noticeable when driving on West Main Street, for 27 years now.

The couple's garden plots, located on three lots at the bottom of a sloping hill behind their home, has a total area of 1.3 acres.

The Roetmans always know that besides the usual tilling, watering and weeding chores, another task awaits them starting about a week after the Fourth of July holiday.

The garlic is ready.

Garlic is among the first produce that's planted by the Roetmans every year. So, logically, it makes sense that its the first vegetable to mature.

"We plant the garlic about the second or third week in September," David said. "The plants are about six to eight inches high when the first snow comes, and they stay that way the whole winter."

Garlic is a member of the onion family, he added, but he's quick to point out that the round heads of the plants he was unearthing have unique characteristics.

Inside each garlic head are several cloves, something you don't find in an onion.

"This is called hardneck garlic," he said, breaking opening a freshly-harvested garlic head to reveal the cloves. "There are approximately six very large cloves, and that's what we plant."

Despite a cool, wet spring, and a summer that's turned hot and dry, the Vermillion couple is expecting a strong garlic harvest this summer.

"We planted 1,800 (last fall) and I'd say we're probably going to have 1,750 garlic plants," David said.

Local garlic lovers – and people who have a taste for a wide range of fresh vegetables – are in luck.

The Roetmans will begin selling their garden's produce from their own small farmer's market, located in the driveway of their home at 803 West Main.

"The market is going to open July 14," David said.

It appears there will be no shortage of freshly-picked vegetables at the market.

"The sweet corn is just starting now, and we also put out 17 bundles of onions this spring," David said. "We've also got leeks, and over two rows of beets, and they're ready to go."

Soon the Roetmans will be harvesting red cabbage, cauliflower, kale and five different kinds of eggplant.

While David unearthed the garlic plants, Elaine checked on the progress of several rows of green beans.

As of last week, the beans were nearly ready for picking, too.

The Roetmans have sold vegetables from their home for over 20 years. Purchasing their freshly-picked vegetables has become a rite of summer for many Vermillion residents.

"People have already been calling, wondering when we are going to open."

The Roetmans only need to advertise their market one time.

"We just need to let people know that we've started," Elaine said, "and we have a sign that we set out by the road. If the garage door is open, we're here and we'll sell."

There's a certain satisfaction, she added, in seeing people enjoy the fresh vegetables provided by their garden.

"We enjoy it. Yes, it is a lot of hard work," she said, "but maybe it's what keeps us out of trouble."

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