I had a lot of really good questions in the comments last week about the garlic, enough that I thought I’d do a longer post. I’m not an expert or anything – all I can tell you is what has worked for me over the years. Your Milage May Vary, and all that…
Since we’re at the Harvest and Storage part of the game right now, that’s what the majority of this post will be about. If you’re looking for info on planting, check out this post from October 2010. I’ll do a better one when planting time rolls around for us in the fall.
So, harvesting… My garlic was all planted at the same time, both the hard and the soft neck varieties, and they were all ready to pull at the same time. The leaves on the hardnecks – the ones with that lovely, tasty flower stalk in the middle – will start to turn brown a few weeks after the scape is cut. I pull mine when about half of the plant is yellow. The softnecks were almost entirely yellow. One source I checked said to “wait until the tops turn brown and fall over.” That never happened. I think a better way to put it might be, “when you can easily bend them.”
Oh, wait…I DO have another post on harvesting HERE. Complete with pictures…sort of.
After the garlic is pulled, it has to be cured. Ideally, in a sheltered spot with good air circulation, where it won’t get wet. A screened porch or a garage with the door open are good choices. I have neither, so I lay the hardnecks on the patio in a single layer, and braid the softnecks in bunches and hang them from a fence post. Keep an eye on the weather if you have to cure them in the open – they won’t last as long in storage if they get rained-on.
A week or so later – those of you in drier climates may only need a few days – the heads are cut from the stalks of the hardnecks and moved into storage along with the braided softnecks. For the longest-lasting stores, it should be a dry, cool place, with good airflow. Store the heads loosely in boxes or bins with good ventilation. Wooden wine crates are perfect, if you can get them.
The heads should all be nice and tightly closed. The one above (one of the softnecks) was over-mature and already separated. It’s going directly into the drawer for use in the kitchen, as it won’t last long in storage, and its early maturity is not a trait I want to pass along by replanting it.
If you’re inclined towards replanting part of your harvest for next year, this is a good time to set aside your seed garlic. I’ll take the 10 or 12 largest heads to use for starting next year’s crop, as I’ve done for the last 8 years. Hubby still pouts a little when he sees the Perfect Specimens in the box marked Do Not Use, but after years of careful selection, most of them are fat and happy (“They’re the size of apples this year!” he exclaimed). The whining is just a tradition, now.
So, that’s my take on garlic…Did it help?