For many gardeners, it’s been a long time coming. After planting our garlic last fall, those beautiful and flavorful bulbs are finally ripe for picking! But is it as simple as plucking the plant right out of the ground and pressing it into your next meal? Not so fast. There are a few things you should know before harvesting fresh garlic from the garden.
A Long Process
I, along with my fellow Northern gardeners, planted my Quebec garlic last fall. I watched happily this spring as the garlic began to sprout in the garden, well before anything else was in it.
And early in the summer, I harvested the delicious garlic scapes from the stalks and enjoyed them in some pesto.
All in all, I’d say my first garlic growing experience has been rewarding. Of course, it’s a longer process, but between the scapes and the current harvest of the garlic bulbs, I’d do it all over again next growing season.
When To Harvest Garlic
You’ll know garlic is ready to harvest when you notice the foliage on the garlic stalk begin to yellow or brown and look sad.
Essentially, the foliage is dying back, similar to what potatoes do when they’re ready for harvest.
Be sure to get the garlic out of the ground before the stalks are completely dry. Garlic is at its best and is most flavorful picked when only the lower two-thirds of the leaves have dried up.
How To Harvest Garlic
The Old Farmer’s Almanac Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook recommends gently digging garlic out of the ground with a small shovel or spade.
Don’t pluck it out of the earth by grabbing onto the stalks. Garlic is delicate and if it bruises, will not store well.
Carefully brush the soil off the garlic bulb; don’t wash it. Take a look and see what kind of wrapping the bulb has. If picked too early, it will be thin and quickly disintegrate. If harvested too late, the bulbs might split apart, and the skin will likely tear.
Curing The Garlic
Unlike many other food crops, you can’t eat homegrown garlic right out of the garden.
Cure the garlic bulbs (with the stalks still attached) in a shady, dry spot with good air circulation. This process will take about two weeks.
The Farmer’s Almanac says you can cure them in an open box or hang them from a string in bunches of four to six.
After about two weeks, check on your garlic. If the wrappers are dry and papery (similar to what you’d buy at the store) and the roots are dry, then they’re ready to be used in your favorite recipes.
Also, check that the roots are dry and that the cloves come apart easily.
Brush off, never wash any remaining dirt, and trim the roots to ¼ inch. Finally, cut the tops to one or two inches.
Garlic keeps well in a cool, dry, and dark environment for several months.
Don’t forget; set aside some nice-looking bulbs for planting in the fall so you can start all over again!