I’ve been watching my garlic patch for the last few weeks, trying to determine whether it’s time to harvest yet. Ten days ago, I pulled the first plant, just to see where it was in the bulb-making process. There was a decent-sized bulb there, maybe two inches across. But once I peeled back the layers of papery skin, the cloves themselves seemed rather small. The trick with garlic, I’ve been told, is to get it when the bulbs are fully segmented but before they start to split open, letting in dirt that will shorten their shelf life. I decided to wait another week or so and try again.
Well, a week came and went, and every day as I passed the garlic at the front of the garden, I thought to myself, Oh, it’s probably not ready yet. I’m always rushing things. Then today I saw one of the stalks completely bent over and lying on the straw mulch. It didn’t look like the result of foul play. No, it looked like the stalk might have caved of its own maturity-determined will. So I decided to see what the bulb looked like. I yanked it out and found this impressive specimen you see to the left. It’s almost three inches at its largest width, and one of the cloves is starting to break away from the bulb. Guess that means it’s harvest time!
I went down my two little rows of Inchelium Red and yanked out each bulb. Some of them were smaller and some bigger, but they all looked gorgeous: white with purplish-red markings near the neck and nary a split head among them. I separated those that had been planted last October from those I put in the ground on January 30, and there was a slight difference in size in favor of the fall planting, but the largest heads from the spring were still larger than the smaller ones from the fall. It was definitely worth planting those extra cloves, even late.
I spread all of the bulbs out on the concrete floor under our deck to dry for a few days. To dry well, garlic needs shade, protection from rain, and good air circulation. After two or three days, I plan to remove a few of the outer leaves of each plant to strip off the dirt, and then I’ll let them continue drying a while longer until the leaves are ready to braid. When I get to that point, I’ll be sure to post a picture of the finished result!