Harvesting the Early Garlic

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.


Chinese Pink garlic (click on any image to enlarge)

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.


Uzbek garlic

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!


2010 harvest drying in the basement

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.


Japanese garlic

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.


Shilla garlic make its first appearance at Happy Acres

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.


Metechi garlic

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.


Red Toch disappointed, it's outta here

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!


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13 Responses to Harvesting the Early Garlic

  1. Mimzy says:

    Dear Happy Acres,
    Two years ago I bought some garlic heads to plant from the Farmers Market in Louisville. Needless to say it’s a long ways to get garlic heads. Let me know if you’d be willing to sell me a few heads later this summer so I can plant another garlic crop? It’s funny I did have some garlic that came up as scapes anyway from last years scapes that dropped seeds. I have not look underground to see what’s down there. ~

  2. Daphne says:

    My artichoke variety is just some supermarket variety and has done well here. It is one of just two varieties I grow. I tested a few others, but they just couldn’t stand up to the artichoke and German Extra Hardy. I love the latter in the kitchen. It only produces four cloves, but the cloves are HUGE. And after using it for a while I only want to have that one. But when planting time comes I always cringe as I have to give up a quarter of my harvest for the next year’s crop. Such a dilemma.

  3. Sharon says:

    Check out my friend’s blog at http://www.wooleylot.wordpress.com. He specializes in organically growing garlic and has tons of great information!

  4. Cindy says:

    Very nice article. I love garlic, too, but have never tried to grow it. Your’s looks great!

  5. Shawn Ann says:

    After reading your post I decided to pull the rest of my garlic. They were looking pretty pitiful but I left them cause I thought they might still grow. Glad I picked them though cause some of them the stalks broke right off. I only have 11 not counting one I pulled last week. This is my first time growing it and just used supermarket garlic. I know, bad. But I couldn’t find any locally even at the local seed store. Crazy! Then during the spring everyone had garlic for planting, even Lowes and Walmart! Grrr. Why don’t they have it out in the fall? So, does it need to be dark to dry them? Cold/warm? I saw that you have humidifiers going for them.

  6. Thomas says:

    That’s quite a collection of garlic you have there. I think our harvest this year is still a ways away. I’ll be interesting to see how the cooler and wetter conditions affect the harvest this year. I’m guessing they will be smaller than last year’s.

  7. Kelly says:

    One of my garlic varieties will be harvestable soon, but we are stuck in a rainy pattern again. I love the Inchelium Red as well, though I did not recognize many of the varieties you are growing. They must not be popular in the NorthEast. Your bulbs look delicious, congrats on another great harvest at HA!

  8. Ah, yes, but homegrown garlic breath! You have some beautiful looking bulbs there. We harvested our first round of garlic two weeks ago, and I rather wish we had a basement. The aroma in the house was somewhat…pungent…for at least the first few days. It’s almost dry though, and I can’t wait to try my hand at braiding it!

  9. Christina says:

    The Japanese did well here, especially considering it was its first year. I’ve already separated two heads from my harvest to use as seed stock for Japanese this fall. Thank you again for the trade.

    I had a really mixed year this year as well. Several of my artichokes did really well–Kettle River Giant (new to me this year) and Lorz Italian in particular–while other artichokes disappointed.

    I lost almost all of my Asiatic/Turban varieties, with the exception of the Japanese. I have no idea what happened! Shilla has been a trooper every year until this year, and this year, each and every Shilla plant died. So strange.

    I’m up to three Creole varieties now (with three more coming this fall!) and each did very well. I planted lots and lots of Ajo Rojo and this year I added Morado de Pedronera and Creole Red. My marbled purple stripes all did as well as expected in my climate. They’ll never thrive here, but I love them so much I’ll keep growing them though the heads are never huge.

    That Chinese Pink sure is a pretty garlic. Nice harvest, man!

  10. Mike says:

    Your garlic looks great, the Chesnok Red is the only one we have in common. It sounds like you have a good system in place for curing and storing garlic. This year we planted our garlic in the spring instead of the fall as so many rotted in the ground during the 2009/10 season…hopefully they will turn out for us.

  11. They are beautiful! I especially love the looks of that Japanese garlic. Do you have a favorite type among those that you grow? What will you plant in the garlic bed now that you’ve pulled these?

  12. meemsnyc says:

    Oh my! Look at all your wonderful varieties of garlic! Totally amazing!

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