Garlic harvest

Hardneck garlic (Allium sativum ssp. ophioscorodon).

Garlic harvest.

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The garlic leaves and stalks are starting to dry back, as can be seen in the photo above from July 14. It’s time to harvest garlic.

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On July 17, 65 heads of garlic were gently dug from the soil with the garden fork. Above is a photo of them freshly dug. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on garlic, I am extraordinarily proud of my garlic. It grows from stock that I bought nearly 20 years ago from an organic farm fair in south Jersey. It’s hardneck garlic. I don’t know the variety. But it’s fantastic. I say without a hint of modesty.

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If these were onions, they could be left on the straw in the raised bed to dry. But not garlic. Freshly dug garlic should not be left in the sun. Don’t wash the heads. The dirt will fall away as the garlic continues to dry in a shady area.

The long roots bother me. I don’t remember that they were ever this long before. Sometimes I associate long roots on, for example, onions, as a sign that they’ve started to grow again, meaning that they are becoming planting stock for another crop rather than food. Another way to put that is to say that they should have been harvested sooner. That they are past their peak as a food crop.

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On the other hand, this doesn’t seem likely for this crop of garlic. I was even concerned that I was harvesting too soon. That the stalks and leaves weren’t dry enough. Taken as a complete crop of 65 heads or bulbs, these are the biggest heads of garlic I have grown. Some of the individual cloves must be enormous. Wow. I spent time loosening the soil in the raised bed with the broadfork and adding compost before planting them. They were planted farther apart this year, spread out around the perimeter of 3 raised beds as opposed to all being planted in 1 bed, as in previous years. That was the big difference, I think.

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Freshly dug garlic has a very pungent smell, which will dissipate as the garlic continues to dry. It’s important that the stalks and leaves remain attached until they are completely dry, which will take a few weeks. My drying strategy is to lay the garlic out in the shade on a table on the deck every day.

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At night I put them into paper grocery bags and take them into the house, since the dew at night would be enough to keep them from drying properly. Of course, keep them out of the rain. The drying process is a labor of love for me. I enjoy watching the leaves turning brown, the dirt on the heads falling away, the roots drying up and falling off, and the heads developing their characteristic purple and white sheen. Which means they are ready to store and to use in cooking. July 17, the day of the garlic harvest, was my son’s birthday. I fixed a boneless leg of lamb for his birthday dinner, and used the last cloves of last year’s garlic harvest for the lamb recipe. That’s good timing.

I’ll be sure to write another post about the drying and storage process as it progresses.

When they have dried completely and the leaves have fallen off, the stalks are cut to a convenient length for storage. Put the heads in brown paper shopping bags, label the shopping bags, and store the garlic heads in the coolest darkest part of the basement. The garlic shows very little sign of deterioration throughout a year’s time. Works for me.

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