gettin’ ready for the garlic: tips and tricks for growing, harvesting and cooking

Monday evening, I got to spend some time out in the gardens at lunch.  I planted some potato slips and yellow sweet onion bulbs but got most excited about the garlic.  Last harvest year on a whim, I took a handful of garlic cloves, buried

garlic stalks, May 2011

them in the dirt in November, then was ecstatic to pull fresh garlic bulbs out of the ground in late May.  That garlic, while small, became the base garlic for all my pickles and marinara.

When the tall green stalks wilted and keeled over, I was afraid I’d lost the small crop.  To my surprise, I discovered the single clove had multiplied into small bulbs.  Upon peeling them for canning, I realized they had been harvested a bit young, but for a first time garlic gardener, not too shabby!

So when I stood out in the onion and garlic bed on Monday around noon, it was a bit tempting to want to pull up this year’s batch.  I think I’ll have close to 30 bulbs if all come in ok.  I restrained myself, however, thinking how much better they’ll taste (and peel) if I let them mature awhile longer.  In the meantime, I’ll be planning how to get ready for the garlic.

1.  Don’t harvest to early–you’ll have smaller cloves with less taste and most importantly, they will be buggers to peel. (even with the garlic peeling tunnel I mentioned in my post on guilty pleasures for homesteading).

2.  When the stalks die back, don’t worry!  The garlic underneath the ground isn’t rotten or dead.  It’s just getting closer to harvest.

3.  Garlic needs to be dried adequately so it doesn’t mildew or rot. This process is known as “curing.”   I lay mine out in the hot sun for several days until the peeling becomes crunchy and translucent.  Some people like to braid their garlic and hang it in a dry place.

curing the garlic

4.  I cut the shoots and loose ends of roots off mind after drying so they don’t create the potential for rotting/mildew.

5.  I just stored mine in open mason jars in my kitchen cabinet.

6.  And my favorite part. . .I start picking out recipes that require garlic, lots and lots of it.

Some ways I like to prepare garlic:

Roasting it in my small toaster oven then adding it to a sweet potato salad or any other dish calling for garlic–it has a bit of a sweet spicy flavor when roasted.

Sauteeing it with olive oil and young greens (I like a trio of kale, chard, and spinach).

Mincing and stirring in sauces or soups.

Marinating poultry in garlic, lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper then making soft tacos

Pressing into a small mason jar then adding oil, vinegar, lemon or orange juice, salt, pepper, and honey and splashing it on a summer salad

So, enjoy!  And if you didn’t grow garlic this year, check out your local farmer’s market and grab a few bulbs.  Lots of variety and lots of flavor.

 

5 thoughts on “gettin’ ready for the garlic: tips and tricks for growing, harvesting and cooking

  1. I didn’t know you could interplant onions and garlic… do they do well that way? This is my first year planting onions, and I hope to plant garlic in the fall. I have very limited space, so I want to find combinations that play well together. I love reading about other people’s gardens!

    1. I don’t necessarily have them interspersed, they just share the same bed but are close. I did find last year that I could sow kale around my garlic, and it did just fine. I also did a combination of chard and strawberries–planted the strawberries for spring/early summer then chard among the strawberry plants for late summer/fall. I ended up with chard through November.

      1. I’m thinking of putting carrots into the tomato containers this year. I decided that since tomatoes do well in containers, I would put a bunch of grow bags in the sunniest part of our property–the driveway–and have my tomato patch there. And since the soil will be nice and deep, try putting the carrots around the tomato plant. Isn’t there a book called Carrots Love Tomatoes or something like that? We’ll see how it goes! Thanks for your reply. 🙂

      2. Elizabeth,
        I tried carrots in deep containers last year and was quite pleased! Same with potatoes. It makes them easier to harvest as well–just dump the container into a wheelbarrow, retrieve the root veggies, and start over. Good luck, and keep me posted! ~Cameron

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