Last Fall Dan and I were casting about looking for seed garlic to plant with no luck after many calls to garden stores, when my wise friend Linda gave me rhetorical thump on the head and suggested I just find some garlic at a farmer's market and plant the cloves. Of course! That's how people have planted garlic for eons before garden stores were invented. Duh.
We were late getting our cloves in the ground (November) but almost all of the garlic we planted raised their pointy green heads this Spring and we hovered over them, snipping off their scapes and checking the state of their advancement from the green to the yellow leaf spectrum. Some of the garlics were flopping over entirely, so after some consultation with Linda and her love, Leo, my personal Garlic Guru, who lives one garden zone south, I yanked up a few bundles to see how the bulbs were filling out.
Some heads of garlic were small, some were plump, but all looked ready to cure. I yanked them all out, tied then into clumps of 7 or 8 with twine and have them hanging in our open-ended garden shed. It's been a week of curing time now, and their formerly damp, purplish skins are turning into the papery white heads that I am used to with store-bought garlic.
My garlic investment has been rewarded six times over from the initial sack of garlic we planted, so I am very happy. It's an easy crop to grow, as I didn't really need to weed or water it much and my most voracious garden pests (voles, Japanese beetles, flea beetles, cutworms) don't seem to mess with the Stinking Rose.
I found some good information about harvesting garlic here at this website, although the authors gave me frights with their warnings about treating garlic like eggs and having only up to a week to harvest the garlic to avoid ruining your crop. I tried to avoid bruising the garlic and will pick the fattest, healthiest cloves to replant later this Fall. As they adapt to my soil and micro-climate, I should have some even plumper, more spectacular garlic in the years to come.
To celebrate my homegrown garlic harvest, I'd love to hear about any recipes or special ways of preparing my favorite Allium. Garlic, yum..........