If you planted garlic last fall, the long wait is over and it's finally time to harvest your garlic! Here are a few tips on how and when to harvest your garlic and cure it for use all year long.
Garlic is good at any stage and can even be eaten as "green garlic" or at the immature stage. At that stage it looks like a green onion, but still has fresh garlic flavor. I usually have a few smaller heads that accidentally get left in the ground so the next year I have a small bunch of garlic greens to harvest early.
However, most garlic is harvested around July, but is completely dependent on the variety and growing conditions. Here's the general rule of thumb for when to harvest your garlic:
In May/June: Cut back garlic scapes (flowering tops, first photo above) from hardneck varieties, this will allow the plant to focus it's energy into the bulb.
Garlic is ready when at least three or four of the bottom leaves have turned brown.
Harvest one to check and see if the garlic head is large and has completely formed. If it's too early the head will look more round, like a little onion as it has not formed the papers that separate the cloves.
Do not wash your garlic after harvesting
Once you have harvested your garlic, move it to a cool, dry location to cure: like a garage. As noted above, do not wash the dirt off the garlic bulbs at this time, just gently shake the soil loose. You can hang your garlic, but it's also fine to store it on an open shelf that has airflow all around it. Just be sure to check it and turn it over every few days.
Curing can take a week or two, depending on moisture levels. You will know it's ready when all of the leaves are brown and crispy!
After your garlic is cured you can now cut off the stems, about a 1/2" above the bulb, and cut the roots off. To clean the garlic, I use rubber garden gloves and gently remove the soil and top most paper layer.
Pre-Order Your Garlic Seed
It's important to purchase your garlic seed from a local seller. This insures that the garlic variety will do well in our rainy and wet climate. Preordering usually begins in July or August for shipping in the fall. Here are a few of my favorite places to get garlic seed:
Some of my favorite varieties include:
Check back in Fall for a post on when and how to plant your seed garlic!