Garlic scapes (flower stalks) after they have been pulled off the plant. Fresh and delicious garlic flavor!
I love garlic. I planted over 100 garlic plants just for myself last October and when people see my patch they always ask “What are you going to do with all that garlic?” Well, I’m here to tell you that I AM GOING TO EAT IT (and save some for seed to plant this fall). Last year I grew 96 heads of garlic and I have eaten almost every head (I did give a couple dozen away to friends).
Garlic growing is becoming increasingly popular among PMSS Grow Appalachia families, and I have been receiving phone calls all spring asking when it will be time to harvest. As harvest time approaches (probably at the end of June), I wanted to share some information on the harvest and storage of garlic so that we will all be prepared for this wonderful harvest.
Harvesting and Storing Garlic
In early June, hardneck garlic varieties send up a round stalk called a scape. This signals that you have about one month left before harvest time. The scape will grow straight and curl before eventually producing a flower. When the scape curls, snap it off instead of letting it flower in order to allow the plant to put its energy into forming the bulb instead of the flower. Don’t throw the scapes over the hill once you pull them off; they are delicious and can be used like garlic in cooking. Garlic scapes are similar to scallions, except they taste like garlic! Chop up the scapes and use them anyway that you would use garlic. Scapes can be refrigerated in plastic bags for about three months. If you forget to pull the scapes off and your garlic blooms, the flowers (and seeds called bulblets) are edible and delicious as well.
Harvest garlic in late June to early July, when 1/3 to ½ of the bottom leaves begin to dry up. If you wait to harvest until all of the leaves turn brown the bulbs will be overripe, and the cloves will start to separate from each other and the heads won’t store as long. On the other hand, harvesting too soon can also reduce the shelf life of garlic. When harvesting, do not pull the bulbs out with your hands by the stalks without loosening the soil alongside the row (make sure not to get too close or you will cut the bulb with the digging fork or shovel). Garlic is more fragile than you would think, and should not be bumped or dropped because it can cause early decay. Carefully lift the bulbs out of the soil with a garden fork or shovel. Remove all the dirt you can by shaking and gently rubbing the roots and bulb. Don’t leave garlic out in the hot sun. Garlic cures best with all of its leaves on, so do not clip the tops off yet.
Cure garlic in a dim area with a lot of airflow for two to three weeks. Hang in bundles of 10 bulbs. A shed, barn, porch, or car port will work. Just make sure the area is dry, well ventilated, and out of direct sunlight. After curing is complete, cut off the garlic tops about an inch above the bulb and trim the roots. You should be able to clean the garlic by rubbing the bulbs gently and peeling the top one to three layers off. Do not wash the bulbs.
Garlic is stored best at room temperature, at low humidity. Never store garlic in the refrigerator as temperatures of 40-50°F and humidity will start premature growth. Cured garlic should keep for about 10 months.