July 22, 2012

Harvesting Hardneck Garlic

'DUGANSKI' HEIRLOOM HARDNECK GARLIC, FRESHLY DUG AND READY TO BE CURED IN A DRY, SHADY SPOT OUTDOORS. 

Growing your own garlic takes time, this crop was planted last October 2, so if space is an issue, you may want to try buying garlic at your local farmers markets. Still, home grown garlic is pungent and strong, and crops can be heavy, so given the cost of even a few garlic bulbs, the flavor of home grown and the volume you will harvest, loosing some space from where you may want to grow tomatoes may be worth it. This year, I am mostly growing Garlic and Tomatoes, as space is precious and of course, the sweet peas took up a good amount of room, too.

 This is my first year growing garlic, and although I made some mistakes ( not cutting the flower scapes off early enough, and not digging some varieties earlier before the stems turned brown) I think I still have been able to harvest a decent crop of three varieties, Duganski, Bavarian Purple and Western Rose. Being somewhat of an bulb expert, I thought that growing garlic would be easy, but my logic was not always correct. Growing garlic is quite different than growing onions.

Across New England, gardeners are digging their garlic this week, as garlic must be dug before the tops fade away and dry, unlike onions. It's a bit of a judgement call, but most experts agree that once the first two bottom leaves begin to dry and turn brown, it is time to dig ( not pull) out your garlic crop. Garlic at this point, will still have strong roots, and stiff stems, and a curing period will be required. Don't wash the soil off of your bulbs, but rather allow them to dry ( never in the hot sun, as that can change the flavor). Find a shady spot outside, and let them air dry and cure for at least three weeks. Once the drying process is complete, snip off the stems leaving just small stump.
HARDNECK GARLIC IS READY TO DIG, IN MID TO LATE SUMMER, JUST AS THE BOTTOM LEAVES BEGIN TO DRY AND TURN BROWN.

USING A PITCHFORK TO FIRST LOOSEN THE SOIL, WILL ENSURE THAT BULBS ARE NOT DAMAGED, SO RESIST PULLING ON THE STEMS TO REMOVE THE GARLIC FROM THE SOIL. HARDNECK GARLIC AT THIS STAGE WILL STILL HAVE STRONG ROOTS, WHICH WILL NEED TO DRY OFF BEFORE BEING REMOVED AFTER THE CURING PROCESS.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO BRUISE OR DAMAGE THE GARLIC HEADS AFTER DIGGING, THE PAPERY SKIN WILL MATURE SLOWLY AS THE BULBS DRY IN THE SHADE. , AND ONCE DRY, ANY REMAINING SOIL CAN BE RUBBED OFF CAREFULLY, THE ROOTS TRIMMED AS THE STEM CUT FOR WINTER STORAGE..


HARDNECK GARLIC STEMS CAN BE LONG, THESE ARE NEARLY FEET TALL.

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