I’ve loved fresh, homegrown garlic ever since I first tasted it back in the 1970s. The grandmother of one of my girlfriends had a nice little backyard garden where she grew garlic, among other things, and she would share some of her fresh, new garlic with me. Back then I liked to make garlic butter with the freshly dug stuff and slather it all over a slice of bread. Come to think of it, I still like to do that!
These days, I grow my own garlic. And since we like garlic so much here at Happy Acres, I’ve come up with some strategies to make sure we have an ample supply year round. My plan must be working, because for the last few years we haven’t had to buy any garlic from the grocery. And we’ve had a lot of tasty homegrown garlic.
My first strategy is to plant garlic that matures at different times, including both early and late varieties. Many of the Asiatic/Turban types are early maturing. Chinese Pink is one widely available variety that is one of the first ones ready for us. Maiskij and Red Janice were ready this year even before Chinese Pink. These are all hardneck garlics which come with the added bonus of producing edible garlic scapes. You can read more about how I plant garlic in this article, and this one.
But the downside of these early, hardneck garlics is they don’t keep as long as the softneck types. So it makes sense to use them first. I like to use them for dehydrating and pickling, as well as for cooking and eating fresh. Pickling mellows the taste of even the hottest of garlics, while dehydrating concentrates the flavor and some of the heat. I’ll talk more about preserving garlic in later posts.
My next strategy is to plant later maturing, long keeping varieties. The best keeper I’ve grown so far is Nootka Rose. It’s an heirloom softneck from Washington State that has great flavor, and produces well for us. Many of the bulbs from last year’s harvest are still good, almost a full year after they were dug. It’s also widely available.
Other long keeping softneck varieties I grow include Lorz Italian and Silver White. Lorz Italian is an artichoke type that has a great flavor, and has made it to the Slow Foods Ark of Taste list. Silver White that is a silverskin type that does well here. Many supermarket garlics are good keeping softneck types, but they may or may not do well in your area. So far I have stuck with named varieties I have gotten from garlic growers and suppliers.
Many of the hardneck porcelain types also store quite well. They usually have four to six large cloves per bulb, which makes them a joy in the kitchen. Music is a popular and high yielding porcelain garlic from Italy that is widely available. Romanian Red and Georgian Crystal are two more porcelains that do well for us here. With the porcelain garlics you get the best of both worlds – the great flavor of a hardneck and the keeping qualities of the softnecks.
My last strategy is to plant some garlic for harvesting super early as green garlic. Green garlic can be any garlic variety that is harvested early, before the bulb has formed. Green garlic is to mature garlic what a green onion or scallion is to a mature onion. Trimmed up and ready for use, green garlic actually looks a lot like a scallion. But the taste and aroma are all garlic. Both the white and green parts can be used.
The usual way to grow green garlic is to plant it in the ground more closely together than usual – say 2 or 3 inches apart. It’s a great use for any small cloves you might have at planting time. It can also be grown in containers, if you’re cramped for garden space. For more about growing green garlic, you can read about it here.
I hope this article has given you some ideas on how to have homegrown garlic all the time. Growing garlic is really pretty easy, once you know how to go about it. And if you aren’t growing garlic already, I hope this article has inspired you to start growing it.
I’m so boring in garlic. I only grow one. German Extra Hardy. I’m guessing that it is a porcelain type hardneck. It keeps forever. I always have some from the year before still good when the new garlic is done.
Boring isn’t bad, if it’s a good garlic like that!
This is great information! I am going to write down the names of some of those varieties and look for them for future plantings. Thanks for sharing!
Your garlic looks lovely. We’ve taken ourselves out of the commercial cycle with garlic as well–we always have plenty. Like you, I pickle some, but I haven’t tried dehydrating it. I haven’t really needed to because my longest storers, the Creole varieties, last into May, when the early harvests start to come in.
That Chinese Pink is especially pretty . . .
I have never pickled nor dehydrated garlic, looking forward to reading your future posts about how to.
Great garlic information. I’ve been growing two hardneck varieties, Purple Glazer and Romanian Red. They have served me well from the beginning and I haven’t explored others. Perhaps I should.
I do have several mystery varieties in my herb bed that I allow to multiply each year. This gives me a nice supply of young, green garlic to use in between the stored garlic and new harvest.
Thanks for the info Dave. We like garlic but are not fanatics. We have been growing a variety for the last few years that stores very well. In fact we just opened the last bulb from last years crop yesterday. It was starting to sprout but was still in use-able shape. So we had garlic for about 50 weeks. We will have a couple of weeks without and the new crop will be ready. I just wish I knew what variety it is, we just lucked into it at a farmers market. I guess I will have to be careful to always keep a few bulbs for planting!!!
Garlic for 50 weeks sounds great to me! That’s the downside of an unnamed variety. If it’s good, then you have to keep it going yourself, though that’s usually not too hard to do.
Really interesting, I think i need to grow some different varieties as I haven’t found a variety that stores for longer than about 6 months. My stored garlic is just starting to show signs of shooting when I cut into the cloves and I really need it to last at least another 3 months until I have some decent sized green garlic to work with.
Great post on garlic. I learn so much from the blogs of good gardeners like you. Thanks for taking the time to educate us. I grow California Giant, a soft neck. I still have a couple of bulbs left from last season. It has done well for me. I tried Music, but it failed in my garden. And because I neglected my community garden plot this spring, this year’s crop seems to have failed also. There is always next fall. BTW, the kale seeds arrived. Many thanks. I’ve been out of town and didn’t get around to mailing the pumpkin seeds yet.
Thanks Lou. I’m still learning about garlic myself!
Hey Dave, great post about garlic…who knew there were this many varieties! You may talk me into planting some.
Kathy, there are literally hundreds of varieties of garlic. And of course, I’d like to try them all!
I really need to try some new varieties…I have only ever planted what I could find at the Farmers Market 😉
I harvested our first Happy Peppers this week, but there’s a mystery…here’s the link:
This year is my first for growing garlic, just one variety and I actually don’t know the name, but I’m pretty sure it’s a soft neck variety. I like the idea of putting the smaller cloves into a pot for green garlic, I’m definitely going to try that next year. Thanks for all the great information.
dave, thank you so much for this absolute Treasure Trove of information about one of my favorite vegetables!!! I only have space for about 30 square feet of garlic each year…but when I have a bigger garden I’ll definitely want to grow enough for the year. I’m bookmarking this!
I buy all my garlic from our local farm and I am wanting to keep it/preserve/can it for the whole year. Last year I just but the cloves in a canning jar with some olive oil and out it in the fridge and just took out what I needed…NOW with that being said…I didn’t do any research on how to keep garlic and now that I am getting ready to go buy my bulk garlic I have done some reading and everything I have read so far is saying NOT TO DO THAT….I need help as I want to go within the next few weeks to get my garlic but also need to find away to have it all year round…..
I also have a boat load of shallots that I need help with as well….
I have no experience with growing or keeping shallots. Trying to preserve garlic in oil is dangerous to say the least, as botulism spores can grow in the oil. Ask the grower what type of garlic you are buying, and how to best store it. Here is some info from Filaree Farm, where I buy much of my original garlic seed stock:
“Store your crop in a cool and dark place. Basements or heated garages are a good bet. Otherwise, a dark and cool part of the house will work. Never store garlic in a refrigerator as it will begin to sprout quickly. Most garlic stores well at room temperature. For long storage 45-55 degrees is optimal. Humidity between 50%-70% is preferred to slow dehydration. Asiatic and Turbans are the shortest storing garlics. Rocamboles and Purple Stripes are the medium (6 months). Porcelains and Artichoke types store 8 to 10 months. Silverskins and Creoles will often store a full year.”
What a great post on garlic. I really need to try different varieties this year as I’ve never been able to grow enough to last all year. I’m pinning this to my garden board for reference. Thanks for sharing at Simple Lives Thursday; we hope to see you again this week.