Last fall we planted some 50+ garlic bulbs in a small patch behind by in-laws house, ensuring we could harvest it no matter when our house sold. Seeing now that our house sold in 3 days, and we moved well before July 4th, I’m certainly happy we chose not to plant our garlic in our own garden.
Just over a week ago, we went and harvested all of the garlic, pulling up a total of 54 bulbs – 30 Music and 24 Spanish Roja. We have planted Music for the past two years, and while we have never harvested huge bulbs, they have always been a decent size and we enjoy the robust flavor. This will be our first experience with the Spanish Roja. The bulbs are in-line with the Music, size wise, although in general, all of our garlic is small this year. It could be in part the location – having planted them in an uncultivated spot, however we also had strange weather over the past winter and we watched the garlic start growing, stall, and finally resume in the spring, much later than usual.
Still, despite the stunted growth, the garlic is average, with some very small bulbs here and there, and smells wonderful! I cannot wait until it has cured and we can begin to use it. Properly storing your garlic and allowing it time to dry and cure will ensure the garlic not only lasts a long time, but that you are enjoying the garlic at its best.
Follow these simple steps when preparing your garlic harvest for storage:
- First – be gentle when handling the garlic bulbs. The outer layers are important to protect the garlic cloves, ensuring longer storage time, so do your best not to damage the exterior.
- Never wash your garlic! Shake off any clumps of dirt and use a dust pan brush or towel to gently brush off any excess dirt. Don’t worry about any dirt that doesn’t come off — as the garlic dries, it will fall away or be easily shaken off. Washing your garlic makes it more prone to mold and rot.
- Trim the stems down to about 5″ in length, and cut off an excess leaves or growth. Trim the roots, but don’t cut too close to the base of the bulb. You don’t want to expose the bulb, which will dry out the garlic cloves or cause rot. I have seen others who don’t even trim the roots until the bulbs are dried and cured, which is fine too.
- I like to hang my garlic, but if you have a rack and the space to lay the garlic out on, undisturbed, then you can do that instead. To hang your garlic, cut a length of twine and tie it around the stems, leaving a loop at one end to hang. Stagger the bulbs in your garlic bouquet so that the air gets around them and dries them evenly – bulbs that are tucked too closely can harbor moisture and will rot. This goes for the rack-drying method as well.
- Hang your garlic bouquets in a dark, cool place. If your basement doesn’t collect moisture, this is the perfect location. We run a dehumidifier in our basement, which works well. Make sure your garlic is not in direct sunlight either.
- You will know your garlic is fully dried and cured when the exterior layers are very crunchy, and crumble – just as the store bought garlic does.
If you are interested in planting garlic for your own harvest next year, now is the time to start looking for varieties you would like to plant. I will be planting some of the larger cloves from this year’s harvest.
It’s easy to remember when to plant and when to harvest garlic, as both dates fall on holidays (for New England anyway; if you live in another zone, you’ll want to research the right growing season for you). We plant on Columbus Day, and harvest July 4th!
As planting time approaches, I’ll be sure to post my growing and harvesting tips.