It is summer and it is garlic harvest time!
8 or so months ago you planted your garlic and chances are it is probably nearing harvest time. So here are a few tricks……and if you didn’t plant garlic THIS year. Then why not try it next year?
In all areas of Australia (except the tropics) you plant garlic in late autumn or early winter. And for some tips on growing garlic see my previous post here on GROWING GARLIC
How do you know when to harvest?
The tips of the leaves will begin to turn brown and the base of the stems will soften. Don’t wait until ALL the leaves have turned completely brown before you harvest.
If you aren’t sure if your garlic is ready, just harvest one bulb and see if it has developed cloves and an outer skin enveloping them all. If it isn’t ready to harvest don’t panic, just wait a bit longer. BUT don’t throw out the bulb you’ve just harvested. You can eat what is called “green garlic” – it has a more subtle taste than properly cured garlic.
How to harvest garlic?
Use a small spade, trowel or fork to gentle ease each bulb out of the ground. Be careful you dig wide enough from the stem – so you don’t hit the precious bulb!
Do NOT just pull on the leaves/stem – they’ll probably break off!
How to cure (dry) garlic?
For your fresh garlic to keep well in storage you need to cure it (dry it basically). You can either tie it up in bunches by the leaves and hang it from the rafters in your garage OR if you have the space you can lay it out flat on some mesh set up off the ground on sawhorses or similar.
To dry on mesh – make sure the mess has good ventilation (from underneath) and position it in a dry spot. I like to put mine under the verandah, so that it doesn’t get direct sunlight or rained on!
Your garlic take between 2-4 weeks to fully cure depending on your climate. Then it is ready for storage.
How to store garlic?
When the garlic bulbs are dry the skins will be very papery and the cloves will feel tight and firm. You can then either cut the stems off for storage or braid them (more on braiding them later in the post).
If you are going to cut the stems off for storage you can pop the bulbs into those orange string bags, an old stocking or a cardboard box lined with paper. Store them in a dry and well ventilated spot.
Well cured and stored garlic will last for 4-6 months depending on the variety of garlic and the climate you live in. If you live in a very humid climate and can’t find somewhere dry to store you garlic, you are best putting them in the fridge. Unfortunately they won’t keep as long – but still long enough to enjoy!
How to braid/plait garlic?
Step 1: Select 3 large bulbs and either tie them together with a piece of string or loop them over so they sit like those in the photo (Step 1).
Now you have 3 pieces to braid with. One on the left, one in the centre and one on the right.
Take another garlic bulb and add it to the middle of the 3 you already have. With the stem of this new bulb lying down over the “middle” stem of garlic already in the braid.
Take the left hand piece and bring it over the middle 2 pieces. So it becomes the new piece in the middle! Then snuggle another bulb on the left hand side, so this new bulbs stem lays over the piece of stem you’ve just brought over from the left.
Now have 2 strands on the left, 2 in the middle and 1 on the right.
Take the right hand piece and bring it over the middle 2 pieces – it now becomes the new middle bunch. Then snuggle another bulb on the right hand side and bring the stem of this new bulb so it sits alongside the stem you’ve just plaited over from the right.
Now have 2 strands on the left, 2 in the middle and 2 on the right.
Repeat steps 2, 3 & 4 until you have a braid of desire length. Then keep plaiting the ends/stems together to tidy it off.
Tie the ends off with a bit of string, leaving a loop so you can hang your lovely new braid up in the kitchen!
Don’t be afraid to try braiding if you only have a few bulbs of garlic – 6 or 7 bulbs look great braided together.
If doesn’t look right the first time you try braiding, don’t panic – pull it apart gently and try again.
Tip – KEEP THE BRAID tight as you go by using pressure on your thumbs and snuggling the bulbs together by pulling on the leave gently if you need to.
If your garlic has VERY thick stems it can be tricky to braid using this 3 addition technique.
If your garlic’s stems are too thick DO NOT add the centre bulb (Step 2) on each row/reptition you braid.
The finished product still looks great!