Sunday, June 12, 2016

Garlic harvest time is near!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

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.  Soft neck garlic is ready to harvest then 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
Be careful when you go to harvest.  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.  

Don't be surprised if you have "volunteers" show up where you planted.  The tiny cloves that get separated when pulling the bulbs will sprout in fall.  These little guys may need a couple seasons to get big enough to harvest.
My favorite way to store garlic is to pickle it!  I simply separate the cloves, remove the "skin" and put in a jar of apple cider vinegar with a few hot peppers.  I just pull out cloves when I need garlic for a recipe.  

If your garlic dries up over the winter, I grind it into garlic powder.  If you have great tasting garlic that doesn’t store well or you have a bountiful crop, another preservation option is pickled garlic.  Just peel (Quick tip-”peeling” garlic) and cover your fresh garlic cloves in organic apple cider vinegar.  You can add a couple of hot peppers if you want to add some extra zing!

Of course, you can also add garlic to the tomato sauce (Preserving the tomato harvest), pickles (Easy, homemade pickles) or peppers you are going to can.  You can flavor vinegars or oils by popping crushed garlic into them (Quick tip-make your own flavored oils).  Many options for utilizing your garlic harvest!  

Everyone knows of garlic in sauces and on cheese bread.  A couple of years ago, 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!

If you are using fresh garlic for cheese bread, a quick way to prepare the garlic is to put into a small food processor with olive oil and just let it grind it to the size you want on your bread!

Garlic can be mild or hot.  Elephant garlic is very mild and not really true garlic at all.  It is a type of leek.  It has a great garlic flavor and produces huge bulbs.  The ones I am growing this year are from the previous year’s harvest.  I like growing them because you get so much for the garden space.  For me, they have stored very well.
Elephant garlic                                       
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 scape garlic has a curly scape flower.
There is soft and hard necked garlic.  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 grow all three!  Elephant garlic as it gives the most for the space.  Hard neck garlic because I love to add scares to salads and how easy the cloves are to peel.  And soft neck for the variety of flavor.  It is always so hard to choose!  A great way to decide is to go to your local farmers market and talk to the farmers for the ones that grow the best in your area.  Take a few different kinds home with you and try them out.  Save the biggest cloves from your favorites to plant this fall.

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