too many words by laura lemay

Garlic Harvest

I harvested all the garlic from the garden last month, but too much life happened between then and now to be able to write about it. But after all the posts I’ve made about garlic this year (Garlic Prep, Garlic Planting, Garlic Scapes), I figure I should finish up the series.

Pulling the Garlic

When last I posted about the garlic in early June, I had stopped watering, the green garlic tops were looking dry,and I predicted I only had a couple more weeks to go before it was time to harvest. That was spot on: I pulled up the whole batch in the last week of June.

On the Subject of Rot

In that last post I was worried about rot:

I’ve had a lot of trouble the last few years with garlic bottom rot; the plant will grow just fine and then wilt and die and when you pull it up it’s all mushy and gross on the bottom end. Best as I can tell from The Google this is because of a fungus in the soil that is extremely difficult to get rid of.

I did have some garlic that succumbed to the rot this year. Here’s a particularly horrific example that went directly into the trash. I think this is what zombie garlic looks like.

Most of the garlic I pulled did not have much rot at all. I only had to toss about 10 heads from the 100-odd cloves I planted and 10% is so much better than the losses I’ve had in the past. Unfortunately I don’t know if I did better this year because of the anti-fungal prep I did to the cloves when I planted, because I’m using better seed garlic, or because I kept a better eye on the watering. Or no reason at all: just better luck. But I’m still happy, especially because much of the garlic I harvested looks like this:

That is what Captain America garlic looks like.

Garlic Curing

Garlic needs to sit around for a while after it’s been pulled, in order to cure. Fresh garlic won’t last very long if you don’t cure it — it’ll either sprout, or dry up, or just go bad. Ideally I’d like my garlic to last me in storage the entireyear until I have more garlic, so I cure it carefully.

Curing the garlic means just leaving the entire plant out in a shady place so that the plant part and the skins can thoroughly dry out. Once in the first few years I grew garlic I made the mistake of leaving it out in the sun to dry, and it got too hot, and cooked. Eight months growing dozens of heads of garlic, and less than a day to ruin the entire batch. Awesome. I mention this so you can learn from my tragedy.

More recently my strategy has been to pull the garlic and leave it out in the bed to dry for just a day or so, covered up against the sun with a tarp or a piece of cardboard. A day or two on the bed dries the soil off of the roots and firms up the skins. After that I can shake off the soil and move the garlic onto a shady part of the porch.

For softneck garlic this is when you make garlic braids. When the garlic tops are still soft and green they’re easy to braid, and then you can just hang up the entire braid out of the way. I grow hardnecks, which are too stiff to braid, so I just leave them laid out in rows on a tarp on the porch to dry. A few weeks later I cut off the stalks, and then a week or so after that I trim the roots and sort the heads. If a head doesn’t look perfect it goes into the “eat first” pile. I put aside a few especially nice heads to use for planting this year, on the theory that replanting the heads that survived the rot may help breed a more resistant garlic over time. The rest go into the barn for storage, to eat over the remainder of the year. One can never have too much garlic.