It’s week 2 of our garlic harvest. There’s lots more to go!
There are several ways to harvest garlic and twice as many ways to dry it. Here is our method, which you might find helpful during this season.
We pull our garlic by grasping the plant at its base and tugging firmly till it loosens. We have been amending our soil for many years and it is soft enough for us to just ‘pull’. If your soil is firm, you will know, you will need to use a garden fork or shovel to loosen the soil first. Creating and maintaining a healthy soil has a million benefits and this is one of them! You can easily pull your plant right out of the ground. I like pulling not only because of its simplicity but because it leaves less soil around the roots and the bulb – making it easier to dry. We lay our pulled garlic in staggered arrangement right in the garden. You can’t beat solar drying. This year the weather has threatened showers every evening so the garlic has only had a day to dry in the sun. Ideally, 1-3 days removes a significant amount of moisture from the plant.
We like to peel back the dried leaves to the last green one. It leaves clean, shiny bulbs ready to dry in the sun. Leaving soil or leaf residue on the bulb creates a window for mold development or bulb staining. Sometimes we don’t have time or the right weather to do this step in this order. If it’s been rainy or high humidity we prefer to peel first as much as possible. We have found, and other growers have confirmed, that the garlic can be rained on once but not twice. After that the bulb takes exponentially long to dry and the risk of mold sky-rockets. After all your hard work, this is something to be avoided!
Trimming involves cutting the roots, or beards as we call them, back to about 1.5 cm and cutting the stalk back to as short as 6 cm. We usually trim our garlic after is has dried for a few days. A lot depends on the weather. The key point to remember is that the bulb needs to dry, part of the curing process. Leaving a few days to dry in the sun prevents the bulb from getting bruised while it is still tender. Trimming the excess root hairs and the top of the plant removes soil and vegetation that hold moisture. This reduces the chance for mold. I would add that depending on the weather events we have had to combine our peeling and trimming together – again to ensure our bulbs dry thoroughly.
We leave our peeled and trimmed bulbs in our drying shed for 2-3 weeks. During this process the skins dry to a paper-like quality.
Fully dried bulbs keeps best between 2-8 degrees Celsius in the dark. Storing carefully will prolong your bulb life. Our Hawkwind variety stores well, for as long as 8-10 months. Check the details of your variety so you won’t be disappointed on your mid-winter trip to the cold room!
Check out our garlic pics on Instagram and Pinterest.