When we got home from being away I was a little bit flabbergasted (spelled that correctly RIGHT out of the gate, I’m proud to say) at the size of everything in the garden.
Over the course of a week I pretty much went from pleasant, cottage garden to the last scene in Jurassic Park where there was a distinct possibility something might come screaming out of the grass and rip your wind pipe out.
In my case that might be a gang of squash bugs.
I wandered around taking everything in, when I came to the garlic. I took one look at it and ran screaming in circles with my arms over my head, cartoon-style.
ACK!!!! ACK. ACK. ACK.
My garlic was ready to pick. Not only ready, but probably even a touch over ready. Because I planted the garlic last fall and we’ve had such a warm winter followed by a hot, hot summer, my garlic matured almost a month earlier than normal.
It was time to get that garlic the hell out of the dirt. Or “soil” for you snooty types.
I’ve been growing garlic since I was a teenager and yet … until a couple of years ago I didn’t know when to harvest it. I thought I knew when to harvest it. I was positive in fact. I was wrong. Positively wrong.
I always used to let my garlic dry out entirely before pulling it.
WRONG. That is the entirely wrong way to harvest garlic. In case you’re looking for the WRONG way to harvest garlic, that’s your method right there. You’re welcome.
Now, if you’re looking for the right way to harvest garlic, here’s what you need to know.
Garlic starts to die and dry up from the bottom up. For every papery covering on the garlic head, there’s a corresonding leaf on the stem. 6 leaves, 6 paper covers. You get the picture. When half of the garlic leaves are dried up the garlic is ready to be pulled.
If you wait until the garlic is completely dried out then the cloves will all dry up and pull away from the stem and fall apart. If you pull it too early the cloves will be small. Either way the garlic won’t store well.
To actually pull the garlic, you need to dig it out with a shovel. You can’t just pull it. Shovel, shovel, shovel … and then pull. Like so …
Garlic, like most vegetables, is fragile. Treat it like an egg or a banana. If it gets bruised or cut it’ll rot quickly.
Once you’ve dug up all your bulbs, wipe the majority of dirt off of the roots then hang your garlic to dry. It needs to be in a warm area where it gets air circulating around it, but out of the direct sun.
Your garlic needs to cure like this for 2 weeks.
Because I need it to dry all around, I’ll turn the bundle of garlic every few days to make sure it’s properly drying on all sides. It’d be better if I hung it where it gets air circulation all around it but I like it hung by the front door. After the garlic has cured for 2 weeks, take it down and lay it out. Now you can reserve your biggest, best cloves for planting in the fall.
Put however many you want aside (1 clove will equal one head of garlic, so if you want to grow 30 heads of garlic next year, you’ll need to save 30 cloves).
You can now trim the roots to 1/2 – 1 inch and cut off the leaves. You can take the outermost papery layer off to clean up the heads a bit. The skin underneath will be clean and white. Store in a mesh bag, or if you’re feeling fancy, braid your garlic (tutorial on that coming up next week) and hang it in a room that’s between 60 and 65°F for storage. Cured and stored like this, garlic will last for up to 8 months. Unless you eat it all.
Or have a real problem with Vampires.