Knowing when to harvest Garlic is as important for best taste, bulb size as knowing how to grow garlic. It also assists with long term storage.
Curing garlic is basically drying it, so the outer skin is dry and firm. This will help with storing and making the garlic last longer.
Harvest time is usually early summer, the exact time is determined by the weather. You can tell the right time by watch the colour of the foliage change.
Hardneck garlic is harvested when the bottom sets of foliage begin to dry. This is when the garlic bulbs will be fully formed and will not have started to come apart in the ground.
We harvest in the late morning to afternoon.
- In loose soil the garlic can be easily pulled out, if it does not pull out easily, use a garden fork to lift it.
- Be careful not to bruise or damage the bulb.
- Gently remove some of the soil, being careful not to damage the skin.
- Garlic should be immediately hung up in a shaded position with good airflow. Tie the tops of the stems together in bunches of 5 or 6. Then hang them in a shaded cool dry place. Bunches of 5 or 6 allow for better air flow.
- They hang for around 3 weeks and then they are ready to store.
- Generally the skin should be papery and dry and all of the foliage should be brown. The roots should also be dry.
- For hardback types – Brush the soil off the roots and snip them off with secateurs, leaving just very short roots.
- Cut the stems off at around 1 inch (2 – 3 cm) above the bulb.
- Any damaged bulbs should be set aside fro early use.
- The soft neck varieties also have the roots and stems cut off and they can be stored the same way, or have the stems left on and you can braid them.
We store the cleaned bulbs in mesh bags beneath the house, a cool position with good air flow. A basement or pantry will also be suitable
Storage time will differ depending on variety, some store for longer than others. The cooler the storage position the longer the bulbs will last. Try for a temperature of 15 – 18°C (60 – 65°F). If you store in very cold temperatures, the bulbs will store for longer, however they will sprout quickly when brought into room temperature.
Some of the best long keeping garlic varieties are the Creole types, ‘Rojo de Castro’ also known as ‘Red Rocambole’. Ajo Rojo and Creole red being three. These are ‘top setting types’ the cloves are smaller than others, however the taste is excellent and the bulbs will last a year in storage
And do not store garlic in the refrigerator, it will think its winter and start to grow.
It is important to set aside the largest bulbs for next years crop, larger individual cloves will produce larger bulbs the the next season than smaller ones.
Check the bulbs regularly for sprouting and any signs of softening or decay.