Last year, I waited entirely too long to harvest my garlic--and it was a small crop, too! I wasn't going to let that happen this year. I hit the perfect time: mid-July. I had planted the seeds from the garlic heads last autumn, so the garlic plants sprouted up as soon as they could from the cold soil this spring. Now it was time to harvest it all!
I harvest my garden typically in mid-July, when the stalks have turned brown and the flower heads have ripened and look like their own heads of garlic.
Below, you can see one section of the garlic bed already cleared. After I dug up all the bulbs, I laid them out on the soil to cure in the sun for several days. You can do this for just a few days, but they need to dry even longer in order to ensure a longer shelf life. After curing them in the sun...well, I'll explain as I go along (it's further below!).
I use a Craftsman trowel (nothing but the best--we just had it replaced when it broke a few days ago!) and get it nice and deep pretty close to the base of the garlic stalk, maybe 3-4" away. I dig down, then lift up.
The head is revealed.
Then, I gently rub the dirt off; it's okay if you don't get it all off. I cut the stalk off, leaving about 3-4" of stalk attached, and finally, I lay the bulbs out in the sun on the soil to cure for a few days (or longer). Warning--if it's going to rain, bring them in or to a sheltered place to continue curing. I use my front porch for this.
Curing in the sun.
I also cut off the flowers. At harvest time, they've grown into balls of little garlic cloves, surrounded by a white papery covering. I save the flowers with the largest cloves inside, which seem to produce the largest heads of garlic for the following year's planting. I also lay these out in the sun to cure a bit.
A colander of garlic flower heads.
When the flower heads are dry, I break them apart and save the individual seeds for planting in the autumn, for next year's garlic crop.
The garlic stalks awaiting the yard waste bag.
I harvested all my garlic over several days, so on this day Joseph and I picked up the remaining garlic bulbs and piled them in the kitchen colander for transfer elsewhere for the final curing.
That's a lot of garlic--over 7 quarts!!
I placed towels without nap (you know, the fuzzy kind--so nothing would transfer to the garlic) on the ground on my porch, and spread the garlic out to dry. I also did this with my purple onions, so you might spot those as well on the towels below.
Once they're dry, you may store them in a cool, dry place. I like to separate the heads into cloves and peel them (here's an easy way to do that), then place them in freezer jars for freezer storage. Just pop one out when you need a clove, and let it soften for a minute or so. They'll get mushy, but you can either chop it and add it to your recipe, or you can mince or crush it.
Being half Italian, I'm so happy to have all this garlic this year!
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