Friday, June 19, 2015

Harvesting Garlic

The day before yesterday, I harvested this year's garlic from one of my front garden beds. According to Landon at Root Mass Farm, you should harvest garlic when it is 40% died off, or just when the tops of the garlic are starting to turn yellow. For me in Virginia, with garlic that was planted the previous October, that's about mid-to-late June.

If you wait any longer than that, the protective papery membrane that covers the garlic head starts to break down and your garlic could start to rot. This year's harvest went MUCH better than last year when the garlic was planted in a back bed that didn't get as much sun. This year it was planted in a front, prime sun-exposure bed and I had many heads that looked more like this than not:

They are not the super huge, baseball-sized heads of garlic that you see grown in California, but more the average-sized heads you see in the grocery store, which is perfect for cooking use. I am guessing my harvest is a mix of Nootka Rose and Inchelium Red that I grew last year, maybe even Italian Softneck...I dunno. I did a stupid thing last year and forgot to label them and now it's a mystery. Whatever they are, they are delicious and powerful!

After harvesting garlic, it needs to cure in order to save for long-term storage. You can use it right away, but if you want some for future use, you need to basically let it dry out. You don't want to wash the dirt off other than knocking off most of the clumps, as introducing water to the heads might make them rot. Landon says to hang your garlic to dry in someplace, well dry, with some airflow. My shed doesn't have any airflow, but it is dry and does the trick. Plus, fresh harvested garlic smells REALLY strong, so unless I start having problems with vampires, I'm not hanging it in my house or garage.

I gathered my garlic in bunches and hung them from twine in our garden shed. They will hang here for about 4-6 weeks and then either be braided or simply cut from their stems and stored someplace dry.

All in all, I got around 50-60 heads of garlic that will keep me happy for then next 10 months, plus give me enough to replant for next year!

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