I harvested the first patch of garlic last week. The leaves had begun to whither (from the drought or just part of the life cycle, I’m not sure). And I recall hearing that when this happens they are ready. A gentle tug at the neck yielded nothing, so I grabbed a trowel and began to lift them out from the perimeter – making sure not accidentally spear the bulb.
I know there’s a process for properly curing the bulbs so they store well through the winter. In my excitement, though, of the first 5 bulbs, I didn’t bother to read up on it. I washed the bulbs of residual dirt and trimmed the necks to a 1 inch nub. Even the necks oozed a wonderful garlic aroma.
And then I went to my computer to research how to cure the bulbs. The first thing they tell you is to not trim them until after they’ve cured. Oops. And don’t wash them, either. The idea is to dry the bulbs sufficiently so they don’t sprout too quickly or get moldy. They need to hang in a dry, dark place (away from sunlight and humidity) with good air circulation for 2 – 3 weeks. Thankfully, I have central air-conditioning. With the intense weather we’ve been having lately, I might have otherwise been in trouble. When the stalks have dried out, they’re ready for long term storage.
This was my first attempt at garlic, and all in all, it was wholly successful! At the end of the day, I will have about 20 bulbs and about a pound of scapes. Not a great return on my $26 investment, but if I save the largest bulbs from this year’s harvest, I will have seed for next year, with no further investment.
And a bit of curiosity – I had thought that the hard neck garlic would yield scapes and the soft neck would not. I planted some of each, and either the soft neck did not produce any garlic at all or they looked just like the hard neck with scapes shooting out the center.
As for the “incurable” bulbs, I’m not too worried. I can use those quickly. For the rest, I started braiding them and have them hanging in my kitchen. No doubt they will ward off evil spirits. Along with San Pasqual, the patron saint of the kitchen, I should be all set.