1 It was time to give some attention to my garlic crop. The main harvest for garlic is when the underground bulbs are dug, cured and stored for fall and winter use - usually this takes place from July through mid-August.
2 Once the top of the garlic plant begins to die back, it is ready to harvest - when the lower three or four leaves start to brown and fall off, and the top five to six are still relatively green.
3 These garlic plants are ready to pull. Garlic can be divided into two general categories. Softneck garlic is the one most found in grocery stores, and stores very well. Hardneck garlic has more complex flavors, and doesn't store as long, but is favored by gardeners and chefs.
4 When most of the crop is ready for harvesting, stop watering for at least a week and allow the soil to dry out a bit to prevent rot and to make harvesting easier.
5 Garlic bulbs are several inches deep, so be careful - loosen the soil first, and then gently get the garlic bulb out. If it is still difficult to remove, use a garden fork to loosen the soil even more.
6 We planted nine hardneck varieties of garlic last autumn. They include: Chesnok Red, Music-Porcelain, Georgian Fire-Porcelain, Georgian Crystal-Porcelain, German Extra Hardy-Porcelain, Amish Rocambole, Northern White-Porcelain, Romanian Red-Porcelain, and Russian Giant Marble.
7 As each garlic was removed from the soil, Ryan brushed off any debris and dirt from the bulb and the roots.
8 Here is a closer look at the bulb after it was picked. Ryan was pleased with the overall condition and size of the bulbs.
9 The next step was preparing the garlic for curing. Curing is a process of letting the garlic dry in preparation for long-term storage. Garlic is susceptible to sunburn, and can literally cook under the sun, so always try to minimize the amount of direct sunlight the garlic gets during curing.
10 Ryan pulled all the garlic out of the ground, and was ready to gather them up and transfer to a proper curing location that's dry, shady and airy.
11 There's no need to wash garlic - after all, the point is to dry them out; however, they can be cleaned and trimmed. Here, Ryan trimmed the roots and stalks, leaving about four to five inches on each bulb.
12 After they were properly trimmed, they were placed in a wire tray. If the garlic is meant for long term storage, the leaves and roots can be left intact during the curing process. The bulb continues to draw energy from the leaves until all the moisture evaporates.
13 Set aside the most beautiful heads of garlic with the biggest cloves to use as garlic seeds next season.
14 These garlic heads are plump and healthy - some are even bigger than we expected.
15 When cleaning or trimming the garlic, be careful not to remove too many of the garlic's wrappers - you don't want to expose the cloves.
16 Garlic can also be gathered in bunches, tied up and hung from their stems. As a fun crafting project, braid the stems of softneck garlics and hang them in a shady spot in the kitchen.
17 Any discarded leaves can go right into the compost pile.
18 Here is one tray of garlic ready for curing.
19 My family, friends and I will enjoy a lot of delicious, and healthy garlic this season. Garlic is known to lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of coronary artery disease, and is an excellent source of minerals and vitamins, such as vitamins B6 and C.
20 Another tray of garlic will soon be ready for curing down in my carriage house next to the stable.
21 In my carriage house, Ryan spread newspaper on the floor before setting down the trays of garlic. The carriage house has good ventilation and is dark, which will be ideal for the curing process.
22 All the garlic will cure here for several weeks.
23 The best storage temperature for garlic is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with low humidity at about 60-percent. Never store in the refrigerator as it tends to sprout at colder temperatures.