Friday, August 6, 2010

Another Garlic Harvest

The first week of August seems to be garlic harvest time, and this year was no exception. Planting and harvesting garlic, not to mention eating it, is one of the favourite gardening pusuits. I was anticipating a very poor harvest this year. For some reason several rows grew very poorly. Most notable was the basic failure of the softneck variety.
It was a pleasant surprise that several of the hardnecks types, with the exception of the row of Wyndvale Heights, did very well. Why they were poor is a mystery. It was a very nice garlic, too bad it seems to be not available via Garden Import anymore.
There was quite a full wheelbarrow load.

Each type was kept separate and given a cursory wash off with the hose. Our sandy soil isn't really very "dirty"!
The intact plants were arranged in mesh trays and set out on the picnic tables in the sun to dry off a bit.
Then they are put on the table next to the house under the overhang to continue drying and curing.
They get a bit of a rearrangement on a daily basis. We also have to check that sowbugs may not have found their way into the stash! Raising the trays on another layer helps that problem.
The tops usually get cut off to about 6-8" in about a week, depending upon how quickly they shrivel.
A final trim of the stem and roots happens when it seems thay have thoroughly dried. They are then put in open boxes or paper bags and stored in a dark closet in the basement. The heads destined for replanting are put aside and labelled.
I usually don't bother counting them until they are ready to be stored. The number planted never matches the number harvested anyway!
Last year I planted a nice hardneck variety obtained at the Farmer's Market in Antigonish. They did very well and I must see if I can get more.

A few years we received a head or two of one I call the "Giant" garlic from our friend Maureen. She didn't know its name, but we have managed to keep a modest supply of this one each year. It makes a nice head with only 4-5 large cloves....a very user friendly type.

We have had a variety of hardneck types over the years from various sources. This year it seemed one was a bit more precocious than the others. The heads had loosened up quite a bit more than is advisable. I expect if I had paid more attention to those plants, they might have been lifted a bit sooner.

No real harm done....they will just get used sooner, or will make great candidates for melted garlic. It seems I only make that in the late summer after garlic harvest. It makes a more mellow version of roasted garlic, but can use up heads of garlic quite quickly.
To make melted garlic, gently heat olive oil (or a mix of olive and canola) in a small saucepan. About a cup of oil usually works. Add as many peeled cloves of garlic as you like. They should be about covered in oil. Have the heat very low. Fresh garlic will start to caramelize very easily.
Simmer gently for about 15 minutes until the cloves are softened. There will be a subtle change in colour. Strain the oil into a jar for future use. Mash the cloves with a touch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate. I usually refrigerate the garlic infused oil as well
The mashed garlic can be used in any application calling for roasted garlic....from potatoes to bruchshetta.
Our garlic growing venture this coming fall is going to see the patch moved to an adjacent garden spot which has been growing buckwheat in anticipation. The bed the garlic came out of will also grow some buckwheat for the rest of the season. Seed was planted there Aug7th.
An addendum August10th! 
The tops of the harvested garlic shrivelled up very quickly since last Thursday's harvest. 

I will trim the roots and remaining stub.

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