Gotta’ Love Garlic

Photo: Courtesy of Powisset Farm

Meryl LaTronica
Farm Manager, Powisset Farm

Garlic is amazing.

Seriously, isn’t garlic just a wonderful vegetable? To me, it seems that nearly each meal I prepare begins with a few gloves of garlic and a little bit of olive oil. Add any veggie to that mix, and I’m having a great dinner! So, the season’s garlic harvest always feels like a triumphant time, like we are taking care of our basic food needs.

Garlic is the last crop planted each fall. Each small clove is the seed placed in the ground to create next season’s bulbs. With buckets of garlic seed in hand, we spread out over the fields, wrapped in sweaters and hats, planting the first seeds for the future season. In the spring, the garlic is the first plant to peek its greens up through the straw mulch we used to cover it, protecting it from frost and maintaining moisture into the summer months. Quickly, the garlic reaches out, fanning its dark green leaves apart, adding color to the blank spring fields.

We grow mainly two varieties of garlic at Powisset farm: Music and Red Russian, both hardneck. Because we grow hardneck garlic, we are able to harvest scapes! Garlic scapes are the stem and flower of the garlic that grows up from the center of the plant. By harvesting the scapes we are urging the plant to focus its energy on bulb production, rather than on flower production. And, fortunately for us, this necessary job provides us with delicious scapes early in June. You can use them just like garlic, cutting the scapes into dishes where garlic would be found.

In the few weeks after the scape harvest, as the garlic bulbs are busy forming, their leaves begin to turn brown, indicating that they are ready to be picked. When the leaves are about 40% brown, we head into the fields with buckets and bags, pulling each bulb out one by one. After harvest, we have to cure the garlic, which we do by hanging it in a dry, shady-ish space with good airflow. From hereon in the green garlic leaves will turn brown and form wrappers around the cloves, protecting it from rot and maintaining its moisture through the long, dry winter months.

As I write, we have several thousand garlic bulbs hanging from our hoophouse, just beginning their curing phase. Sometime in September, we will cut down the hanging, dry garlic, trim its stem and clean it up for distribution. The largest bulbs will be saved for seed for the following year.

And then? We do it all over again!

4 thoughts on “Gotta’ Love Garlic

  1. barry

    How do you clean the garlic of dirt before you hang them (do you just brush it off or rinse with water)? Or do you leave them with soil on? How do the green leaves form wrappers if you leave them with soil on them?

  2. meryl

    I don’t clean the garlic off until after the plants have cured. I just hang it up with all the soil still on the bulb. I might gently brush off some soil with my hands, but I don’t like to rinse with water, because i want to the plants to really be drying as they cure. (though other folks do rinse). When the bulbs are dry and cured, i then take a gentle, soft brush and lightly scrub off the soil on the bulb.

  3. Sasha @ Global Table Adventure

    I tried to grow my own garlic this year but I think something ate them. They were here one day -beautiful tall shoots -gone the next.

    I use garlic in most of my meals, so I really was hoping for better luck. My herbs and peppers are doing really well, though.