Last week I cleaned and weighed the last of the 2015 garlic harvest. I dug the garlic over a period of about a month beginning in mid June. After digging and cleaning off some of the extra soil (it was mud this year), I tied the garlic in bundles of 8 to 12, then hung in our warm basement with the dehumidifier running. That is the best place we have at present to cure the garlic, since it is way too humid to do it in the garage or workshop areas that aren’t climate controlled. I usually let it cure for three to four weeks, until it is thoroughly dried.
Now that the numbers are all tallied, I can say this was the best year yet for growing garlic since I began keeping track of the numbers. After curing there was right at 21 pounds of garlic bulbs. And yes, that is a lot of garlic! But then we use a lot of garlic here. Most gets used in our cooking, plus I generally pickle some and also dehydrate it. Earlier in the year I harvested 26 oz of garlic scapes and 37 oz of green garlic, which were all used fresh.
The top performer this year is a softneck Artichoke type called Simonetti. It has been one of the top five producers every year since I first planted it back in the fall of 2011. This year the 12 cloves I planted made bulbs weighing a total of 29.2 oz, which gives it an average weight of 2.43 oz, with the largest bulb weighing 3 oz. The other Artichoke types I grow also did well, which are Lorz Italian, Siciliano and Inchelium Red. I really like to roast these varieties whole, though some also get used in other ways. All of these Artichoke varieties are average keepers for me, usually lasting for six to eight months before starting to sprout or deteriorate.
The second best performer is a newcomer here, a Silverskin variety called Idaho Silver. The 12 cloves I planted of it made bulbs weighing 25.4 oz, for an average weight of 2.11 oz each. Idaho Silver is supposed to be well adapted to areas with cold winters. Our 2014-15 winter was about average for cold temperatures, but we had a bit more snow than usual. Other Silverskin types I grew included Silver White (#3 performer), Nootka Rose (#9) and S&H Silver (next to last). All of the Silverskins are good keepers here, usually lasting for ten months or more. Nootka Rose is one of my favorites, and I think the flavor of it actually improves with storage.
The fourth best performer is a hardneck Rocambole variety called German Red, which averaged 1.93 oz per bulb. I first planted it in 2013, and it joined other Rocamboles I grow like Russian Red, Killarney Red and Spanish Roja. None of the four get very much red coloring here, despite their names. The bulb of German Red in the above photo weighed 3.4 oz, and was one of the largest of any garlic this year. The Rocambole group is much loved by garlic connoisseurs for their rich, complex flavors. My tastes aren’t that refined, but I do think the Rocamboles I grow are pretty flavorful as well as productive. Unfortunately they are not good keepers, and are usually sprouting within six months or less of harvest.
The best performing of the Turban types I grew was another newcomer called Xian. This one is a favorite of author and garlic expert Chester Aaron, and it averaged 1.83 oz per bulb which made it my #5 performer. Other Turban types I grew this year included Red Janice, Uzbek, Shilla and Maiskij. The Turban garlic varieties are not great keepers, but they tend to be early and usually give us our first taste of garlic scapes and fresh garlic. I also think they tend to have a nice but fiery hot flavor when raw and freshly harvested. I try and use them up first, and when they start to sprout I use them as planting stock for green garlic.
After several years of trying quite a few different garlic varieties, I am slowly but surely finding the ones that do best here. I’m also discovering which ones keep well, and which I like best in the kitchen. I still have a lot to learn about growing garlic, but I do know that different varieties vary greatly in the climates and growing conditions they prefer. Some can’t take winter cold, while others require it, and so on. And some handle wet growing conditions better than others, which describes our typical spring weather, especially this year. My goal now will be to pick the best ones I want to grow going forward, and simplify the number of varieties.
To see what other gardeners are harvesting, cooking and tallying up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA, including another featured cooking bean I’ve been taste-testing.
For more information about garlic growing and preservation see: