Saturday, August 3, 2013

Garlic harvest

You may remember that I was really excited about purchasing garlic last fall and determined to actually have a respectable garlic yield.  Over the course of the last 8 months, I watched my garlic go from  tiny sprouts...

Garlic sprouts, early 2013

to daffodil-like shoots...
leaf-mulched garlic starts, sometime in March or April.

... to full sized plants. 

Garlic plants in May, mulch removed. 
By June, the plants had formed scapes-  long, curled stems with the start of a blossom at the end. 

Over the next 5 weeks, the scapes straightened out, which is generally a sign that garlic is getting ready to harvest.  Speaking of scapes- it's common practice is to harvest all but a few scapes as soon as they curl, sometime in early June.  (This practice has two purposes:  first, removal of the scape allows the plant to put its energy into forming a bigger bulb. Second, the scapes are a delicious, more mild precursor to the full garlic harvest.  They can be used in any dish you would normally use garlic in). Unfortunately, I completely forgot about this practice until the end of June, once all of the scapes started to straighten out.  I harvested them anyhow, but I'm not convinced it had much effect on bulb size. 

The other important sign that garlic is ready to harvest is the browning of the bottom 5-6 leaves of the plant.  Although my scapes were more or less straight by the end of June, it took another solid week or two for the leaves to turn brown. Timing is pretty important with garlic harvest. If you harvest too early, the garlic will not be sufficiently swollen, and won't store well.  However, if you wait too long and too many leaves die back, there won't be enough protective skin left on the garlic.  I waited and watched, then finally, on 4th of July weekend, I harvested my first bundle of garlic.  

harvested on the 4th of July

I let it cure in a warm, airy room for another two weeks, then made a lovely braid with 12 of the heads, which now hangs in our kitchen.  

Our total harvest was about 80 heads, a yield I was very happy with.  Full disclosure:  the biggest and most beautiful garlic heads are definitely represented in this braid. Many of the heads were quite small, which I believe is a result of my forgetting to remove the scapes.  Next year I'll be sure to harvest scapes much earlier.

Also, I didn't do a great job keeping track of which variety was which - so far, however, everything we've eaten has been delicious.

Overall, I'm very happy with our garlic experiment this year, and can't wait to get more in the ground this fall.

PS- I learned a lot about garlic harvest and storage from this great article on harvesting garlic.

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