Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Harvesting Garlic


Last fall, we planted our first crop of garlic.  Maid Elizabeth had carted a large bag of bulbs home from a farmers market and, not wanting any to go to waste, we planted the largest, nicest cloves and minced and canned everything else.  We ended up with six 1/2 pints of canned garlic and two medium sized garlic beds.  It was a wonderful garlic experiment.

Early this spring we noticed that our garlic was shooting up and looking wonderful, but we hadn't the slightest idea when or how to harvest.  In early June, after we noticed some of the leaves beginning to brown, we actively began to research the proper time to harvest and how to cure garlic for long term storage (other than canning).  We found that garlic is generally harvested in the beginning to middle of July, after 4 or 5 leaves have browned and withered from the bottom up.  Although it was the last day of June, our hot summer had hurried the garlic along, and, after checking, we determined that it was ready to harvest.

The girls and I headed to the raised beds, basket in hand, to reap the rewards of our labor (although truth be told, there is very little labor involved in growing garlic).  We carefully dug up each bulb, wiped the dirt from the surface and snipped the roots close.  Bulb after bulb yielded to our gentle tugs, until at last, our basket was filled to overflowing.  The bulbs were gorgeous, some nearly as big as a baseball!




After harvesting the garlic, we stood our screened drying rack up in the sun room and prepared the garlic for curing.  Garlic needs to be cured for about two weeks in a warm, well ventilated room, out of direct sunlight.  Not wanting to put the garlic in the shed (where the generator is housed) we sacrificed precious floor space in the sunroom/sleeping porch.  After the garlic has cured for a week, we will braid the stalks and put them back on the screen racks to cure for another week.




While most of the garlic will be for eating, the best, healthiest looking bulbs will be stored until fall when we once again fill the raised garden beds with cloves for next summer's harvest.

Oh, the sweet harvest of summer!

18 comments:

  1. awesome, mine did not do well. There is this fall though to give it another shot.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had about a dozen different kinds planted, 3 didn't come up at all (I have no idea why not) while the others are doing fantastic - but we've had so much rain and unseasonable chilly weather here that they are nowhere near ready to harvest. The scapes were fabulous eating though, roasted with parmesan cheese grated on top. And I pickled some, just to see how they would taste - but those won't be ready til mid-August. Mine required a whole lot of weeding this year, but that's the rain more than anything.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That is a wonderful looking crop! We are so wet and cool here in Texas that many things in the garden are not doing well. Glad to see that your hot dry conditions did not effect that crop at least.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ditto, that is a wonderful looking crop. I pulled one of mine as a tester on 7/1/15 and they will need to stay in the ground for another week or two.

    A question and perhaps a thought for next year: May I ask why you trimmed the roots off? As a rule, I've learned that it's best to leave them alone until they dry out. Dirt and all. I mistakenly wiped all of my bulbs off the first time I picked them only to realize later that I was ruining their outer 'skins' which if necessary to protect them. That's what dries out and becomes 'the paper' just like in onions. Lesson learned.

    Just pluck (only for stiff neck garlic such as yours and mine!) the garlic right out of the ground and put them on the drying racks out of direct sunlight. I used to dig them but the stiff necks are tough and come right out with a slow steady pull, although you may have to loosen the first one a bit. Warning: if you planted the garlic from the grocery store so you can braid them and hang them, you must dig them out. Personally, once I tried the stiff necks, I couldn't go back to the soft necks. The stiff necks are heaven in a bulb for cooking and have only 4-5 decent cloves around the stalk. They cannot be sliced through to grill and squeeze like the grocery store ones.

    Anyway, my point is that the roots and the top green stalks continue to 'feed' the garlic for a bit until every last drop of goodness is moved into the bulbs. That makes it even simpler all the way around. 8-) Plant - Pluck - Cure - Save - Eat. When they are all properly cured in 4-6-8 weeks then you can trim the roots and the tops, leaving about 4"-6" of neck. I usually give my garlic away as gifts to my worthier friends and family so I invite them to walk out to my drying rack and chose some lovely fully dried plants for them. Then I trim both ends, knocking the root dirt off at that time right in front of them. You'd be amazed how many people never saw where garlic comes from and they are usually delighted when I show them. By the way, you can/should save your biggest and prettiest heads when they cure and PLANT THOSE BULBS (broken up into separate cloves of course) this coming fall. No need to buy any new ones! You see, with garlic, you get what you plant, as a rule. If you plant small crooked ones, you will get a crop of the same. Make a pact with yourself right now to only use the small odd ones for cooking, etc. If you plant the gorgeous robust cloves, that is what you will harvest. I have been growing garlic for years and years, and it ALL came from one nice looking Russian Stiff Neck garlic that a friend bought at a garlic show in Boston one year. I've had good years and bad years but my crop is still from the very same old original cloves and they are superb! My chef nephew waits for them to cure every year so I can give him 'his batch'. ;-)

    God created garlic and it is the ultimate 'loaves and fishes' plant. The more you plant and give away, the more you wind up with to do the same year after year. 8-)

    God Bless,
    Janet in MA

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Janet;
      Thank you so much for such an informative comment! We are doing this by guess and by golly, having never raised or harvested garlic before. All we know we learned on the internet (they say it must be true if it's on the net, right?!). Next time, we'll leave the roots on until they are done curing and won't be particular about getting the dirt off! Thanks so much!

      Enola

      Delete
  5. We are planting garlic for the first time this fall (we hope) and have been reading your garlic posts avidly. I have to admit I laughed this time through as I have visions of the kids dreaming of italian food or pizza while the garlic is drying!! Thanks for sharing what you have learned!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No need to wait! If your garlic is calling to you and you have visions of garlic bread and spaghetti sauce, just go ahead and break one open!!!. Yes, you can eat some of the garlic you harvest right away without curing it first. If you need it, use it. It will have a tender yet delicious fresh garlic taste. Just watch out for your eyes - fresh garlic has no outer hard shell to peel so you only have to clean the cloves of the dirt and outer layer of skin. When you slice these they tend to squirt just like a grapefruit which always seems to find your eyes. ;-) Now that you are forewarned you can start enjoying a small amount of your garlic right away.

      You are going to love growing garlic! I even grow it on the years when I know I won't be having a real garden. Plant it every fall without fail! That way you have fresh garlic with no hassle and you keep your garlic going from year to year. Just remember to rotate your garlic areas in the garden. Don't grow them in the same spot every year. Garlic really benefits from rotation.

      God Bless,
      Janet in MA

      Delete
  6. I just had to come back and make a comment about your drying racks. The use of the clothes drying rack as a stand for the screens is a wonderful idea and consider it stolen!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am laughing as I type this, as I have the same rack and some extra screens from windows on a house we are tearing down and I thought, "Shazam!, I can do the same thing".

      Thanks, Enola for sharing this chapter and thank you to Janet for all the additional information. Now I just need to find some good garlic to plant this fall.

      sidetracksusie

      Delete
  7. I've been growing garlic for 8 years & braid it green. At first I just tied it into bundles to hang from the wall, but the internet showed me how to braid it. The effect of braiding dried garlic was nearly as pleasing as braiding it green. I put 20 bulbs in each braid. People love to receive it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for dropping the "blueprint" for an effective drying rack right into my filthy little hands.

    Sometimes I am SO bad at thinking outside the box. I shall have to make sure I get re-inoculated against the Western Affluenza Virus. I've heard it can rot your brain...

    ReplyDelete
  9. how is your wonderful dog doing

    ReplyDelete
  10. Enola.....where are you? Hope all is well so hurry back asap. Hugs

    ReplyDelete
  11. Pray that you and your family are doing well. God bless you all.
    Paintedmoose

    ReplyDelete
  12. Missing you and the wonderful posts you share. Praying all is well and it's just a busy time for you as is with so many of us, especially this time of year! How did your bees do this year? We're getting ready to harvest our honey soon.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I miss you Enola. Hope all is well.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Praying that all is well with you and your family. Miss you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Redoubter at HeartAugust 11, 2015 at 9:41 AM

    Getting a little worried, hope all is well. If anyone knows Enola in real life a note that she is OK would be most welcome.

    ReplyDelete