It’s hard to believe, but it’s time to start harvesting garlic here. The early varieties were starting to show yellowing and drying of the lower leaves, so I dug a few to see what they looked like. They looked ready to me, so I proceeded with the harvest.
Harvesting garlic is always tricky. Dig it too soon and it won’t reach it’s full size. Wait too late, and the skins will start to deteriorate and the bulbs won’t keep. In a perfect world, the soil would be dry at harvest time. But with 2.5 inches of rain here in the last few days, our soil is anything but dry. The bulbs were at risk of rotting, so I couldn’t afford to wait for dryer conditions.
Last year the soil where the garlic was growing was dry and hard due to the drought conditions. The yields suffered as a result. This year we’ve had ample moisture – too much really, and the garlic bulbs are big and plump. I won’t weigh them until they are cured and trimmed up, but by the looks of things it should be a banner year. And that’s a good thing, because we love our garlic!
I hang our garlic up to cure in the basement. It’s warm and dry there this time of year, with two humidifiers running. It should be cured and ready for storage in about two weeks. I leave the tops and the roots on, which helps draw the excess moisture out of the bulbs.
The Asiatic and Turban varieties do quite well here. They are early to mature, great tasting, but they don’t store quite as well as some of the later varieties. Even so, they should last us until Christmas. We’ll eat them first, and save the better storing varieties for later. Last year the Japanese variety was neck and neck with the silverskin Silver White for being the top producer, so I have high hopes for both of them again this year.
The Japanese has large yellow/tan cloves and is great raw or cooked. I did a garlic swap last year with Christina at A Thinking Stomach. She swapped me a huge Ajo Rojo creole garlic for some Japanese. I can only hope the Japanese does as well for her as it does here, once it gets acclimated. The Ajo Rojo isn’t quite ready yet. I’ve had trouble with creole types before, but Ajo Rojo is supposed to be quite adaptable to both hot and cold climates.
If you replant garlic that is grown in your garden, over time it will acclimate to your growing conditions. It has taken me several years of growing to get some of these varieties established, but it has been worth the wait. Of the early varieties I harvested today, Chinese Pink, Xian, Uzbek and Japanese are in their third season of growing here. Shilla is another Turban type that was planted for the first time last fall. By the size of the bulbs, it looks like it is going to like it here also.
Another first timer is the purple striped Metechi. I’ve had trouble getting the purple stripes to do well here, which is a shame because they are great tasting. Metechi looks good so far. I also have the purple stripes Brown Tempest and Chesnok Red planted this year, but they weren’t quite ready to dig.
Not all the garlic does well here. I only got 2 scrawny little Red Toch bulbs this year out of twelve cloves planted. The rest just didn’t make it. Red Toch is an artichoke variety with rave reviews elsewhere, but it won’t be back again at HA. Lorz Italian and Inchelium Red are two artichoke types that usually do well here for us. I’ll probably try and find another artichoke type to try, as they are generally good keepers. Inchelium Red has won taste tests, and is a favorite here as well.
Well, the garlic is now hung in the basement with care, and there is no chance any vampires will be there. You know I must really love garlic if I try and get poetic about it! I’ll be digging the rest of the garlic in the weeks to come, and I’ll report on it then. Fresh garlic practically begs to be eaten raw, so if you see me in the next few days I will probably have garlic breath!