This post can also be read on bonappetit.com
There is a moment each spring when I find myself standing in the garden, just staring at the garlic. It's a moment I dread because it means it's thinning time. Thinning requires decision making, and when I'm forced to make decisions--in the garden and in life--I often fear that I'll make the wrong one. So I just stand there for a while, feeling the cool spring air on the back of my neck, and stare at the too-thick rows of garlic. I know I'll have to pull some of it out of the ground so the rest will have enough space to grow. It's a sacrifice for the common good. It's just hard to be the druidic executioner, so to speak, and choose who will live and who won't.
I plant garlic every fall. It sprouts an inch or two before winter, then sits, waiting for early spring, when it skyrockets, sending forth foot-tall shoots and leaves. In another month it will send up flower stalks, or scapes, which I'll remove so the bulbs will have all the energy they need to plump up into heady garlic. But before that happens, I'll have to pull out some of the weaklings, giving the hardier stalks space to grow.