A few bundles of garlic and bulbils tagged and tied waiting to be hung up to dry. Some will be used for food other for next year's crop.
One of the best things about writing on this blog is that it forces me to learn more about what I do through reading and closer observation so that I can post, hopefully, factual information. Thus my horizons are expanded and perhaps someone else out there learns a little with me. If I come across as knowledgeable in some of these posts, beware, a few years of gardening does not make for an expert. I am green, you could say a gardening infant struggling to grasp the many and varied concepts involved in this most challenging of tasks. There are other bloggers far more insightful than I, some having more experience, others are just plain smarter. Tenacity is my talent, and an insatiable drive to learn more about that which I love. So, with that in mind, here is what I think I might now know about MY garlic.
My ever present assistant displaying garlic ready to be harvested. Can you believe I used to be a dog person, what's happened to me?
We harvested a little less than 1/3 of our garlic today, roughly 200 bulbs. The majority get a little less sun due to overhanging trees and will not be ready for another week or two. Once approximately half of the leaves have turned brown and the scapes have straightened out it is time to pick garlic. At this point the underground bulb should be separated into cloves and have a firm skin wrapped about them. We harvested Nootka Rose, German Porcelain, and Chesnok Red, the latter two being hardneck varieties and all three new to our little garden. "Mike's hardneck garlic", having long forgotten the original name, and a few elephant garlic plants make up the remaining 2/3 left to be pulled.
This is a nice specimen reflecting bulb separation and a good storage skin
A bundle of Chesnok Red being set aside for next year's garlic
Normally I plant one type of garlic sometime in September and harvest and dry them in early to mid August, paying little attention to the subtle nuances associated with the plant. This year, due to the various types we are growing, I decided to learn more so that I could speak, if you will, garlic talk. I learned that basically there are two types of garlic, hardneck and softneck both having different classifications.
Our three hardneck varieties are classified as rocambole, porcelain, and purple stripe. Rocambole garlic has a thinner skin, strong flavor, and the scape will often form a double loop. The porcelain type has a thick white skin, fewer larger cloves (ours contain 4 per bulb), stores well and also has a strong, sometimes hot flavor. Purple stripe garlic has striped colorful wrappers, milder flavor, and is supposed to be excellent for roasting. The hardneck varieties have a hard stem or neck and are known for their scapes and bulbils and have anywhere from 4-12 cloves per bulb.
Our softneck variety, Nootka Rose, does not normally (though two of them did) produce a seed head or bulbils. This silverskin garlic can be easily braided, has superior storage qualities, seems to have a much stronger flavor then its hardneck brethren, and produces many more cloves per bulb. Regardless of the information regarding storage, our original hardneck variety "Mike's" stored for a good 9 months last year. We planted the extras this spring and should be able to harvest them soon, they do not appear to be as large as the fall planted garlic though. One a side note, I did find the harvest of the softneck garlic to be a little annoying as the stems easily broke off and had to be carefully dug rather then easily pulled as the hardneck was.
Large bulbils formed on the head of one of "Mike's" garlic scapes
Small bulbils of the German Porcelain garlic
If allowed, the hardneck garlic will form pig tailed scapes that can be cut at an early tender stage and cooked for a delightful garlicky treat. We simply fry them with onions and morel mushrooms...ambrosia. If the scapes are left to further develop they produce bulbils of various sizes that can either be eaten or replanted in the fall or spring. These will produce a decent size clove in 2 or 3 years depending upon the bulbils size, we will be trying this with our garlic this year. Many an article states that if one cuts a garlic top before it develops into a scape the bulb will be larger, I have done this over the years and have yet to see a noticeable difference. This is perhaps due to good soil fertility, I'm really not sure.
A scape that is a little past its prime on a spring planted garlic
We will plant the best of these same cloves sometime in September depending upon the weather. In colder regions garlic is normally planted in the fall in order for the root to begin to develop, this helps the garlic get off to a good start the following spring. It's best to wait until just before planting to separate the cloves as this keeps the root bud from drying out allowing the garlic to set roots sooner.
Right now our garlic has been hung to dry or cure on our porch and will soon be joined by those that were left behind. This is where they will remain until we move them into baskets in a cool dry back room for winter storage, our garlic room's temperature is kept at around 40-45° most of the storage year. One of the nice things about heating solely with wood and pellets is that it removes much of the humidity from the air making for an excellent environment for the storage of garlic and squash.
The first batch of garlic curing on our porch
Well, in brief, that's what I have learned about my garlic thus far. In years to come I hope to become not only more proficient in the growing of garlic but knowledgeable in the various facets of home grown garlic production. The eventual goal being to develop a more consistent garlic bulb that not only keeps well but has larger, more pungent cloves for cooking.
The flower of an elephant garlic, not a true garlic but actually a type of leek