The Spice of life

“It’s nice to know that when you’ve farmed all your life it’s going to get carried on. That’s something special.”

We met Yael Bernier at the Farmers’ Market and decided to join her for a day exploring her garlic farm, Bernier Farms.


You know when the recipe called for 2 garlic cloves and you nod, then casually go ahead and add 6 cloves – bad breath be damned? Looking over the fields of garlic at the family-run farm Bernier Farms reminded me why I do this. Obviously, because garlic is delicious, but mostly because it elevates the flavor of every dish it’s in.  

Needless to say, the Bernier family live, breathe and eat garlic 365 days a year – and wouldn’t have it any other way. For Yael Bernier, garlic, specifically the Northern Red varietal, was her introduction to farming when she was living in Penngrove back in 1973. 

“She was struggling with a little garden in her backyard,” Yael’s son Zureal tells me. “And her old Italian neighbor, Mrs Lucchini, was watching her.” 

Mrs Lucchini knew what the problem was. She needed to start with a bigger seed. So she gave Yael some seeds of Italian Red garlic, brought to California from Europe.

And this [particular variety] is not readily available anywhere and so we’ve had to save it ever since she started planting it,” he says. “It’s kind of amazing that she’s been growing this variety for 50 years from the same few seeds that Mrs Lucchini gave her.”  

Seeing the joy that farming brought his parents, it was only natural that Zureal would want to join the family business. He decided this when he was in high school and applying for an exchange opportunity in Argentina. In his admission essay, he had written that he wanted to farm like his parents – this was news to Yael and Paul. 

 “It’s just nice to know when you’ve farmed all your life it’s going to get carried on. It’s very special,” Yael shares.  

Tips from Yael on making the most of your garlic

Fresh garlic is too delicious to pass up. That being said, it’s very moist, meaning it gets moldy quickly. If you want to store it longer, Yael suggests hanging it by the stem to dry it out.
Or, preserve it in olive oil. Garlic oil anyone?
Next time you visit Healdsburg Farmers Market, ask for hardneck garlic which is more flavorsome than its soft-necked relative. “What you generally see in the stores is softneck because the softneck garlic has a much longer shelf-life than hard neck garlic.”