Sunday, June 18, 2017

Garlic harvest is here!

Garlic in foreground, starting to die back
Sunday, June 18, 2017

Garlic is rich in lore.  This allium has been around for thousands of years.  It originated in Asia, was cultivated in Egypt and has been a Mediterranean cooking staple for centuries. Over the ages, garlic has been reputed to repel vampires, clear the blood, cure baldness, aid digestion.  

Today’s studies have shown garlic has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral properties. And, it tastes great!  For a breakdown of specific vitamins and minerals, garlic nutritional value  It is easy to grow and has little pest issues.  All you do is put them in the ground in the fall and by early to mid summer, they are ready to harvest.
The clove puts out roots in the fall.  Depending on how warm the winter is, there can be green shoots showing through the cold months.  Garlic will be some of the first greenery to start growing in early spring.  The stems resemble onion greens.  The hard neck garlic flower, or scape, has a cute little curl in it.  They are great in salads.  Harvesting them also gives you bigger bulbs.
For more on fall planting and growing garlic, Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......

Soft neck and hard neck garlic are slightly different in telling you when to harvest.  For soft neck garlic, you wait until the tops fall over and die off.  They are ready to harvest about a week later.  Typically this is mid-summer, but ours is ready now.  Hard neck garlic is ready to harvest when about half of their lower leaves have turned brown.  Try digging one up and see if the bulb is large and firm.

                                               Garlic ready to harvest           Freshly harvested garlic
It is best to dig your garlic when the ground is dry.  When you go to dig up your garlic, proceed carefully.  If you cut the bulb, it will not keep and needs to eaten soon.  The garlic should be left in dry shade for 2-3 weeks or brought inside and stored in a cool, dry location with good air circulation.  They can be hung or placed in a perforated bin or paper bag to dry and store.  I keep mine in a paper bag on the covered deck.

After they are hardened, I will cut off the dry stalks above the clove and trim the roots.  I'll keep them in a  bag with good air circulation indoors until I am ready to peel them.

If you planted a combo of elephant garlic (which is actually a type of leek), hard neck and soft neck garlic and are wondering how to tell them apart now.

Leek flower
Garlic scape
You can tell the difference in the two by looking at the flowers.  Leeks have a onion type flower while hard neck garlic has a curly scape flower.

Your soft neck garlic will have a much smaller stem than the elephant garlic does.

For the longest storage, soft neck garlic is the ticket.  It is also the strongest flavored.  Hard necked is milder and easier to peel.  I like elephant garlic because you get so much from each plant.

To preserved my garlic, I peel them and put them in apple cider vinegar with a few hot peppers for pickled garlic.  I keep them in the frig and they have stayed firm for me for two years.  I had tried keeping the dried, fresh cloves in years past, but always lost some.  This way, I don't lose a single clove!

I use my garlic for garlic cheese bread, cooking, and salsa.  Quick, homemade salsa

Everyone knows of garlic in sauces and on cheese bread.  A few years back, we tried roasted garlic.  It dramatically mellows the flavor.  I just put a few heads in a small baking dish, add chicken stock to just about level to the cut heads, and let bake covered at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until soft.  It is a great spread on french bread!

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