We are past the halfway mark of this month of putting up the harvest, and I am playing around with a few ideas for the coming days. But today's post is something I've done for a few years, and is one of those things that if you have the time and can make the effort in the fall, I guarantee you will be glad of the results. See, today we're talking about garlic. Yes, that stuff that wards off vampires. Yes, that glorious bulb of stink that has magical superpowers (antiviral, antibacterial, selenium-ful and I think makes you glow in the dark just about*). It is a super duper low maintenance plant that can look good in veggie patches as well as in flower beds out front. Plus, they deter pests like deer and rabbits and squirrels from invading your patch! It's also something that will keep long into the winter months when properly cured.
Now my bulbs here in the photo do not look pretty. But this blog isn't about being pretty and perfect, it's about being real. And about good food. I plunked these babies in the ground 2 years ago as bulbils instead of cloves, which I would recommend you plant cloves. See, I got in too late to the clove/bulb-purchasing party two falls ago and the place I order from (The Garlic Farm in Boundary, BC, highly recommend their site) had run out of bulbs/cloves to sell for planting, and so the lovely Sonia sent me bulbils to try out instead, at little to no charge if I remember correctly. So try I did, scattering them on my garden bed in the hopes they'd come up next spring. Oh they did indeed come up, but thin blades of what I thought was quack grass at first, and about 3 or 4 weeks in, promptly disappeared. I thought oh well, chalk it up to experience, and left everything in the soil and forgot about them.
Until this spring. Oh did they come back! The cloves had now had enough time to develop from those first bulbils, and were crowded in my bed but growing like MAD! I wish I had photos to show of how beautiful they grew, but I tend to live in the moment and often forget to photograph things. You'll just have to believe me that they looked glorious. I was excited about this year's harvest, almost 2 full years after having scattered those first bubils on the ground. (If you do as I say and not as I do, then you'll plant cloves and be able to harvest the next summer, not two summers later as I did…)
And harvest I did. Might I recommend you follow Sonia and Henry's advice, let the patch dry out for that last week before harvest when only 3 green leaves are left on the top growth, and harvest when things are dry. I did it in the middle of last week's deluge, but because I had to, I was afraid they were going to start rotting in the ground if I didn't get them out fast enough. That's why there is so much dirt on those heads of garlic on my homemade shoddy chicken-wire screens in that photo. Yours won't be like that, they'll be much more beautiful, with less dirt. Don't you fret.
Sonia and Henry's site gives you plenty of information on how to grow your own garlic, how to cure and store your garlic. I will refer you to their site to get the low-down on how to be a garlic superstar. And so in addition to that big 4'x8' screen littered with garlic set to cure for the next two weeks, I had some bulbs that came out that were scuffed, or that I dug in to and ripped the papers off accidentally whilst harvesting, and was worried they wouldn't cure properly and that I would lose the pungent cloves. And so I did what I had to do. I spent 2 hours peeling a big bowlful of teeny muddy bulbs and threw them in the blender, mashing it into a paste along with some good quality olive oil.
We used to do this in the kitchen where I used to work, a trick I learned from Chef Stephen. I dropped that garlic paste on to a sheet of plastic wrap, you could do it in parchment I suppose, and then rolled it into a log shape, pinching off the ends and tucked it on a tray in the freezer to freeze. Freezing the garlic/oil combo prevents botulism from settling in, and keeps your garlic super fresh. Now when I need garlic, I just have to take the log out of the freezer and shave off what is required in my recipe, and tuck the whole thing back in to the freezer. Voila!
Now once those other bulbs have properly cured in a few weeks, I'll try my hand at braiding the stalks and hanging them in my basement for storage until I need some in the kitchen. I plan to also slow roast a bunch of bulbs together and then squeeze them out and blitz into a paste, freezing in a log again just like this fresh garlic. And I may also impart bulbs to friends as gifts. You know, to keep the vampires away. But I most certainly will be saving a fair number of those garlic heads to re-plant again this fall when the weather cools down again, because growing my own garlic is one of my most favourite crops in the garden. I swear, one clove from my garden patch is worth 3 or 4 from the grocery store!
*that last bit was a little bit of a white lie