As we round the corner into the late summer we begin to turn our minds and garden beds towards the future harvests of cooler months or the far horizon of next summer. Garlic comes to mind as one of the most important plants that we cultivate ‘in the space between’ our raucous garden seasons of high summer.
Garlic grows through the fall, overwinters in the ground, then stops growth until the spring commences. Garlic is harvested in the summer when the leaves begin to yellow. Sow True Seed sells Elephant Garlic, as well as hardneck and softneck varieties which you can choose based on your preference or needs. A discussion of the two can be found in a previous blog.
Garlic Varieties to Try
If you grew garlic this past year it should drying somewhere nearby and you are enjoying the flavors of the variety you chose. Your own fresh garlic just doesn’t compare to the store bought stuff. Begin thinking about what you might like in a garlic for next year. If you can’t choose, you can get a sampler pack which provides a 1/4 lb. of both a hardneck and softneck variety so you can have two varieties next year to choose from!
If you prefer a complex lingering flavor, great for roasting, try Chesnok. If you like a spicier flavor, hardneck variety that lends itself to zesty salsas try German White. The softneck variety California Early provides a great garlic flavor. It is an early maturing variety that does well in a variety of climates.
How To Grow Your Own Garlic
Garlic prefers a well drained soil with good fertility. A well amended plot that has a soft tilth will allow the bulbs to grow and spread. Plant the garlic before the cold temperatures of winter freeze the soil to allow it time to grow some roots before the hard winter sets in. Garlic should be planted 2-3 inches below the surface of the soil and 4 to 6 inches apart within rows. Put about 12 inches between rows. Plant the bulb pointy end up! Mulch thickly and in a few weeks you will see small leaves emerging from the mulch. Keep the garlic weed free through the winter and the shoots will begin growing again when the temperatures warm.
Once the plants are well established they will form scapes. Cut these off where they meet the first leaf. Garlic scapes are edible too! They make a great pesto or can be used in salads or stir-fries. By removing the scapes the plant can put energy into bulking up its bulbs. When you see half to two-thirds of the leaves have yellowed, it is time to pull your garlic. This tends to be in June or July depending on your location. As leaves are yellowing, hold back on the water to prevent the possibility of root rot and to thicken the skins. You can wash the bulbs and dry them in a dry airy place for 3 to 4 weeks to cure. Long term storage conditions should have low humidity.
How To Roast Garlic
If you are growing garlic it is likely you have many a recipe that already uses this versatile Allium. In case you have not roasted it this way before it is a wonderful way to enjoy the complex flavors of various varieties.
The recipe is as simple as can be! Cut the tips off an entire head of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil. Bake at 350° until the cloves are soft and pulpy. Use as a spread on fresh bread or with crackers or raw vegetables.