July 22, 2016
It’s the perfect time to harvest my garlic...
Determining when garlic is ready to harvest can be tricky. If it’s harvested too soon, the cloves are small and underdeveloped. Harvested too late, and the clove heads begin to separate, making them more vulnerable to decay.
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, relatively short shelf life, and their intriguingly complex flavors.
This week, my head gardener, Ryan McCallister, harvested our crop of harneck garlic. The varieties include: American Porcelain, Music Porcelain, Chesnok Red-Purple, Majestic Porcelain, Italian Red Porcelain, German Extra Hardy Porcelain, Turbans, Russian Giant Marble-Purple Stripe, Asian Tempest Asiatic, Georgian Crystal Porcelain, Romanian Red Porcelain, Amish-Rocambole, and Georgian Fire. Enjoy the photos.
1 At my farm, garlic is usually among the last crops planted before the long winter. We planted a lot of garlic from Keene Garlic, a family owned farm in Wisconsin. Now the garlic is ready to harvest. http://www.keeneorganics.com
2 The main harvest for garlic usually takes place from July through mid-August, when the underground bulbs are dug, cured and stored for fall and winter use.
3 When most of the crop is ready for harvesting, stop watering for at least a week and allow the soil to dry out. Garlic bulbs are several inches deep, so Ryan loosens the soil first with a garden fork, and then gently unearths the garlic bulbs.
4 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.
5 We planted 13-hardneck varieties of garlic last autumn. This crop is looking really good - there are lots of big garlic bulbs!
6 Here is a closer look at the bulbs after picking. Ryan is pleased with their overall condition and size.
7 The next step is to prepare the garlic for curing. Garlic is susceptible to sunburn, and can cook under the sun, so try to minimize the amount of direct sunlight the garlic gets during curing.
8 Ryan pulls all the garlic out of the ground, and transfers it to a proper curing location - the small greenhouse right next to my main greenhouse.
9 Ryan brushes off any debris and dirt from the bulb and the roots.
10 Any discarded leaves can go right into the compost pile.
11 Then, the stalk is cut with secateurs, leaving about five-inches attached to the bulb.
12 Here is a pretty clean, white bulb and stalk.
13 Then, Ryan cuts off the roots with scissors.
14 Set aside the most beautiful heads of garlic with the biggest cloves to use as garlic seeds next season. 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.
15 There's no need to wash garlic - the point is to dry them out.
16 Raw, freshly minced garlic has the most health benefits. It takes at least four and a half cooked cloves to get the same effect.
17 The majority of garlic grown in the United States comes from California. China however produces at least 66-percent of the world's garlic.
18 After they are properly trimmed, they're placed in a wire tray. It's so exciting to how much garlic we grew.
19 There are over 300 varieties of garlic grown throughout the world. Its pungent flavor is due to a chemical reaction that occurs when the garlic cells are broken. The flavor is most intense just after mincing.
20 In the small greenhouse, Ryan set the trays of garlic down on the gravel floor. This greenhouse can be well-monitored during the drying process.
21 All the garlic will cure here for several weeks.
22 Once cured, 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.
24 My family 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.