Harvesting the Garlic

Last November we took a punt on growing garlic again, I diligently planted it, watered it, fed it with wood ash and waited for a cold winter to give us fat, separate cloves. Except this winter we barely saw any snow, and though temperatures dipped it wasn't as cold as in previous years. Like onions, we have a love-hate relationship with garlic. Our last attempt four years ago had us declare failure when our elephant garlic categorically failed to become anything but elephantine. It was more like the mouse that scared the elephant or more truthfully, a fly that landed on the elephant. So as the foliage on our garlic started to turn more yellow than green we held our breath and reached for the garden fork.

Homegrown garlic

Before I reveal what I dug up, just a reminder that I planted Taylors Garlic Marco (£2.99 for three bulbs from Gordon Riggs) and that it was a last minute purchase; stood by the till, some seeds in my basket and there was the garlic, beside the onions (safe to say that I didn't even entertain them) and the sweets for the kiddies. You know, the pester power products as grown men ask their wives: 'Can I grow some garlic please? It's supposed to be easy. Monty Don says so' and the wife replies, 'No Gary, buy 150g of Uncle Joe's Mintballs, you know you'll be happier with them'. Carol wasn't around, she'd wandered off to look at the Christmas tat, and dear reader it has to be said that the garlic somehow slid into my basket and when Carol saw it after the purchase she merely said, 'Oh no, not again. Why couldn't you get some mintballs?' This meant that we both went into this first harvest in the potager with no expectations other than failure. Now, some eight months later hand trowel at the ready the truth is...a rather respectable if not large crop of garlic, the bulbs are all firm and large, not huge but larger than we've had in the past. I mean, we could plait this garlic if we wanted to. Garlic is a crop for storing and after drying it will hang for a month until the outer layer is like paper.

Garlic

I leave the garlic at first to dry out. It sits for the next two days on a plank and I pray it doesn't rain. There is a moment where I wonder whether a fox with French tendencies in the kitchen will stop by and snaffle the lot but the garlic sits there until we bring it in. After a week we plait it, yes you heard right, we plaited it and hung it from the kitchen larder door (It's so long I couldn't get all of it in the photograph). This allows air to circulate around it turning those outer layers to paper and preserving it for longer (do not place it in a bowl, it will sweat and rot quickly, hang somewhere cool). Hell, we're so excited to have garlic of our own for the next 4-6 months that we've even talked about putting up a pole inside the larder to hang it and our chilli plaits from in future years. I even mention onions at one point but Carol sent me off with a quarter pound of boiled sweets and told me not to be daft.

Garlic hanging

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