July 18, 2013
The Amazing Hardneck Garlic Harvest!
Allium sativum, more commonly known as garlic, is an ancient plant. But, unlike most vegetables, domesticated garlic doesn’t produce fertile seeds, and must be grown from divisions, or single cloves of the underground bulbs. What that means, and it’s fun to think about, is that every clove is essentially a living piece of that original ancient plant. Most people are familiar with only the supermarket variety, but there are other kinds of garlic that are worth seeking out. Garlic is divided into two categories. The supermarket variety, called softneck, produces long-lasting bulbs with many cloves around a soft center stem. Softneck garlic produces no flower stalk. Hardneck garlics are noted for their stiff central stalk, fewer cloves, their relatively short shelf life, and their intriguingly complex flavors. This year’s crop of hardneck garlic has just been harvested at the farm.
1 These are garlic scapes, the flower stalks of hardneck garlic plants, although they don't produce flowers. Scapes are usually cut off, giving the plant more energy to form a plump garlic bulb.
2 Young scapes twist and turn as they grow and are tender enough to eat. They have a mild garlic flavor and can be made into pesto, grilled, or minced for salads or baked potatoes.
3 As the scapes mature, they begin to straighten out and the heads become larger.
4 Eventually, the papery outer covering splits apart, revealing little garlic seeds.
5 These seeds can be planted in the autumn, but it takes 2 to 3 years for the seeds to form into a mature garlic bulb. To grow mature garlic in one season, a garlic bulb is split apart and individual cloves are planted instead.
6 After the scapes are removed, we wait about 2 weeks before harvesting the garlic. Before digging, the bed is given a thorough watering to loosen the soil.
7 Wilmer used a garden fork to carefully loosen the soil around the garlic bulb. There's been a lot of weeding going on at the farm, but this bed was obviously, not a priority.
8 A gentle tug on that stiff central stalk
9 And a nice head of hardneck garlic is revealed.
10 Basically, garlic is divided into two categories. What you find in the grocery store, and the most frequently grown, is called softneck. This highly productive plant produces long-lasting bulbs, with many cloves around a soft center stem.
11 Hardneck garlics are noted for their stiff central stalk, fewer cloves, and their relatively short shelf life.
12 However, they're easier to peel and because they have intriguing, complex flavors, hardnecks are popular with chefs and gardeners.
13 Garlic cloves are planted in the autumn, giving them time to mature into bulbs for next summer's harvest.
14 It's important to keep in mind that garlic does not like to grow where Brassicas (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower) grew the year before. This is an unhappy marriage, reducing garlic yields.
15 These hardneck varieties are Georgian Crystal, Red Rezan, Russian Red, German Hardy, Polish Hardneck, and Chesnoke Red.
16 The small bulb on the left was grown from a small hardneck garlic seed. When planted again in the fall, it will grow into a mature garlic head, like the one on the right, which grew from a single clove.
17 You can use the garlic right away, but for long term storage, the garlic heads need to be cured, preferably in a well-ventilated and dry area. Ryan spread newspaper over the floor of my carriage house.
18 Garlic is cured with its leaves and stems in tact. Curing dries the outer skins, forming a protective layer over the garlic flesh beneath.
19 Ryan arranged the garlic in neat rows over the newspaper.
20 These are all of the hardneck seed garlic, which will be planted again in the fall.
21 It looks like my family and friends can expect gifts of garlic when it's fully cured in a few weeks. After curing, the leaves and roots are trimmed off and the garlic is stored in a cool, dry spot.
22 What an amazing harvest! Ryan will reserve about 25% of this crop for replanting in the autumn.
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