Garlic is a popular and flavourful crop that can transform a garden.
How to Harvest Garlic: Tips for Timing and Techniques
Signs that garlic is mature and ready for harvest include the color and texture of the leaves, scapes, and bulbs. When about half the leaves are still green and the other half have turned brown or yellow, that’s a sign the garlic is ready. Papery leaves and curled scapes also indicate maturity. A bulb that is plump, firm, and has tight skin is another indicator.
Harvesting garlic at the right time is critical in ensuring a healthy and flavourful yield.
Once the garlic has reached maturity, typically in mid-summer, it’s time to harvest it. Here are some essential techniques to keep in mind when harvesting garlic:
Digging Up the Bulbs
Using a garden fork or spade, gently loosen the soil around the garlic bulbs, taking care not to damage them.
It’s important to loosen the soil before pulling out the bulbs to avoid breaking them.
Insert the fork or spade at an angle about 6 inches away from the base of the plant and lift the bulb out of the ground gently.
Harming the garlic bulbs in the morning is best, while the soil is still slightly damp from dew.
This will help prevent the soil from clinging to the bulbs and make them easier to clean.
It’s also essential to harvest the garlic bulbs promptly once they’re ready, as leaving them in the ground for too long can lead to over-matured bulbs that are more challenging to peel and have a shorter shelf life.
Harvesting garlic at the right time is crucial for achieving the best flavour and yield.
Determining When to Harvest Garlic
One of the most critical aspects of harvesting garlic is timing.
Garlic goes through several growth stages before it’s ready for harvest, including planting, growth, maturation, and harvesting.
By understanding these stages and observing specific signs, gardeners can ensure a healthy and robust garlic crop.
Here are some key indicators that garlic is ready for harvest:
Leaf Colour and Texture
The colour and texture of garlic leaves can be useful indicators of the plant’s maturity and readiness for harvest.
As the garlic plant grows and develops, its leaves will undergo various colour and texture changes.
Understanding these changes can help gardeners determine the best time to harvest their garlic crop.
In general, the lower leaves of the garlic plant will turn yellow or brown as the plant matures.
This colour change is a sign that the garlic plant is beginning to enter its final growth stage before harvest.
Around one-third to one-half of the leaves will still be green, indicating that the plant is almost ready for harvest.
This stage is crucial because harvesting too early or too late can significantly impact the quality of the garlic bulbs.
In addition to colour changes, the texture of the garlic leaves can also provide important information about the plant’s readiness for harvest.
When the garlic leaves feel dry and papery to the touch, it’s a sign that the garlic is ripe and ready to be picked.
The leaves’ dry texture indicates that the plant has reached its final stage of growth, and the bulbs are now fully mature.
It’s important to note that while leaf colour and texture can provide helpful information about the maturity of the garlic plant, these indicators should be used in conjunction with other signs, such as bulb plumpness and firmness, and scape curling.
By observing these various signs, gardeners can ensure that their garlic crop is harvested optimally, resulting in a healthy and robust yield.
Garlic scapes are the curly, slender shoots that emerge from the top of the garlic plant.
They can grow up to two feet tall and are usually harvested before fully mature.
However, when garlic scapes begin to curl, it’s a sign that the plant has reached its maturity, and it’s time to harvest the garlic bulbs.
The curling of garlic scapes is a visual cue that signals the end of the growth cycle of the garlic plant.
The plant produces these scapes to divert nutrients from the bulb to the flower and seed production process.
When the garlic bulb has reached its full size, the scapes will begin to curl as the plant prepares to move into the next growth phase.
It’s essential to harvest the garlic bulbs promptly when the scapes start to curl to ensure they are still fresh and flavourful.
If left too long, the garlic bulbs will begin to split, and the cloves may start to separate, making the bulb difficult to peel and leading to a shorter shelf life.
Removing the scapes from the garlic plant can also help increase the size and quality of the garlic bulb.
By removing the scapes, the plant can redirect its resources to the bulb, leading to a larger and more robust harvest.
Observing the curling of garlic scapes is a crucial indicator of the plant’s maturity and readiness for harvesting.
Prompt harvesting at this stage can lead to a healthy and flavourful garlic crop while removing the scapes can increase the size and quality of the garlic bulb.
Bulb Plumpness and Firmness
The garlic bulb is the ultimate goal of the garlic-growing process, and its readiness for harvest is one of the most important factors to consider.
While observing the colour and texture of the leaves and the curling of the scapes can provide essential information, examining the bulb’s plumpness and firmness is a crucial indicator of the plant’s maturity and readiness for harvesting.
When the garlic bulb is fully mature, it should be plump and firm to the touch.
A plump bulb indicates that it has reached its maximum size and fully developed.
A firm bulb indicates that the cloves are well-formed and that the bulb is of high quality.
The outer skin of the bulb should also be tight and intact, which is a sign that the bulb is healthy and has not been damaged.
If the bulb begins to split or the skin becomes loose, it’s a sign that the garlic has over-matured and may be starting to decay.
This could be due to harvesting the garlic too late or leaving it in the ground for too long.
Over-matured garlic bulbs are often difficult to peel and may have partially or fully separated cloves, reducing their quality and shelf life.
It’s important to note that not all garlic varieties will mature simultaneously.
Some varieties may mature earlier or later than others, and the climate and growing conditions can also affect the maturity of the bulbs.
It’s essential to monitor the garlic closely and harvest it when most bulbs are fully mature, even if some bulbs are still developing.
In summary, the garlic bulb’s plumpness, firmness, and its outer skin’s tightness and integrity are crucial indicators of its maturity and readiness for harvesting.
Properly matured bulbs will result in high-quality, flavourful garlic with a longer shelf life, while over-matured bulbs may be damaged, problematic to peel, and have a shorter shelf life.
Curing the Garlic
After harvesting the garlic bulbs, it’s crucial to cure them for two to three weeks in a dry, well-ventilated area.
This process allows the garlic to dry thoroughly and develop its flavour.
To cure the garlic, tie the plants in small bunches or spread them in a single layer on a drying rack or screen.
Keeping the garlic out of direct sunlight and in a warm, dry location with good air circulation is essential.
A garage, attic, or covered porch are all good options for curing garlic. Avoiding areas with high humidity is important, as this can lead to mould and spoilage.
During the curing process, the outer layers of the garlic bulbs will dry and turn papery.
Once the garlic bulbs are fully cured, they can be cleaned by removing the outer layers of the skin and trimming the roots and stem.
The cured garlic can then be stored in a cool, dry place, such as a pantry or cellar, for several months.
After harvesting and curing garlic, proper storage is essential for maintaining its flavour and quality.
Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when storing garlic:
The best place to store garlic is in a cool, dry area with good air circulation, such as a pantry or cellar.
The ideal storage temperature for garlic is between 60 and 65°F (15-18°C). At this temperature range, the garlic will keep for several months.
It’s essential to store garlic away from direct sunlight and heat sources, as this can cause it to sprout and lose its flavour.
Also, avoid storing garlic near fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas, such as bananas and apples, as this can cause the garlic to spoil.
Garlic can be stored in various containers, including mesh bags, paper bags, or ventilated containers.
Choosing a container that allows for good air circulation to prevent moisture build-up, which can lead to mould and spoilage.
Avoid storing garlic in plastic bags or airtight containers, as these can trap moisture and cause the garlic to spoil.
Additionally, storing garlic in a clay garlic keeper can help extend its shelf life and preserve its flavour.
Preparation for Storage
Before storing garlic, removing the outer layers of skin is essential, but leaving the bulbs intact.
Trim the roots and cut off the stem if it’s still attached.
Handling the garlic gently is essential to avoid bruising or damaging the cloves, which can cause the garlic to spoil more quickly.
If you’re storing garlic in a mesh bag or paper bag, label the bag with the harvest date to keep track of its freshness.
Storing garlic properly is crucial for maintaining its flavour and quality. Store garlic in a cool, dry place with good air circulation, away from sources of heat and sunlight, and avoid storing it near fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas.
Choose a container that allows for good air circulation and handle the garlic gently when preparing it for storage.
Tools for Harvesting Garlic
Harvesting garlic is a delicate process that requires specific tools to gently lift the garlic bulbs out of the soil without damage.
Here are some essential tools for harvesting garlic:
Garden Fork or Spade
A garden fork or spade is a must-have tool for harvesting garlic.
You’ll need to use it to loosen the soil around the garlic bulbs gently. Insert the fork or spade into the soil about 6 inches away from the base of the plant and gently lift the bulbs out of the ground.
Avoid stabbing the garlic bulb directly, as this can cause damage to the bulb.
Select a garden fork or spade with a sturdy handle and a sharp, pointed blade.
This will make penetrating the soil easier and lifting the garlic bulbs out of the ground.
Wearing proper gardening gloves when harvesting garlic is crucial to protect your hands from cuts and scrapes caused by the sharp leaves and stems.
It’s also essential to wear gloves to keep the garlic bulbs clean and free from soil and dirt.
Choose gloves made of durable material, such as leather or rubber, to protect your hands effectively.
It’s vital to avoid gloves made of synthetic materials, as they can tear easily and may not provide adequate protection.
Other Optional Tools
While a garden fork or spade and gloves are the primary tools required for harvesting garlic, some gardeners may find it helpful to have additional tools on hand.
For example, a hand-held bulb planter can be helpful in planting individual cloves, and a hoe can be used to weed the garlic bed before harvest.
Additionally, a garden cart or wheelbarrow can help transport the harvested garlic bulbs to a drying area or storage location.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Harvesting Garlic
Harvesting garlic can be rewarding, but gardeners make common mistakes that can affect the flavour and yield of the garlic crop.
These mistakes include harvesting garlic too early or leaving it in the ground for too long, damaging the bulbs during harvest, and failing to cure the garlic properly.
To avoid these mistakes, wait until the garlic is fully mature and ready to be harvested, and be careful when digging up the bulbs.
Additionally, hang the garlic in a dry, well-ventilated area for two to three weeks to properly cure it before storing.
By avoiding these common mistakes, gardeners can enjoy a bountiful harvest of flavourful and aromatic garlic bulbs.
Maximising the Flavour and Shelf Life of Your Garlic Harvest
Harvesting garlic is just the first step in enjoying its rich flavour and aroma.
To truly maximise the flavour and shelf life of your garlic harvest, it’s essential to properly cure and store the garlic and use it in cooking and preserving.
Curing and Storing Garlic
Once the garlic has been harvested, it’s important to cure it properly before storing it. Curing allows the garlic to fully dry and develop its flavour while extending its shelf life.
After curing, it’s time to store the garlic. The ideal storage location is a cool, dry place with good air circulation, such as a pantry or cellar.
Using Garlic in Cooking and Preserving
Garlic is a versatile ingredient that can add depth and flavour to various dishes, from soups and stews to pasta sauces and marinades.
Fresh garlic is typically used in cooking but can also be preserved throughout the year.
One standard preservation method is freezing, which can be done by chopping or pureeing garlic and placing it in ice cube trays.
Once frozen, the garlic cubes can be stored in a freezer bag and used as needed.
Garlic can also be pickled or dried for long-term storage.
To pickle garlic, pack peeled garlic cloves in a jar with vinegar and salt and let sit for several days or weeks.
Dried garlic can be made by slicing the cloves thinly and placing them in a dehydrator or oven at a low temperature until fully dry.
Once dry, the garlic can be stored in an airtight container for several months.
Maximizing your garlic harvest’s flavour and shelf life is essential for getting the most out of this beloved crop.
Gardeners can enjoy garlic’s rich, aromatic flavour throughout the year by properly curing and storing it in cooking and preserving.
Benefits of Using Garlic
We hear from the Internet that eating meals with garlic has many medical and health benefits.
We can tell you that our most preferred benefit is flavour, flavour, flavour!
Any savoury meal tastes much better when added garlic. Soups, stews, pasta dishes, curries and stir-fries all spring to life when garlic has been cooked in them.
Garlic is undoubtedly flavour’s little helper!
Final Thoughts on How to Harvest Garlic: Tips for Timing and Techniques
Harvesting garlic at the right time is essential for achieving the best possible flavour and yield.
Gardeners can ensure a healthy and robust garlic crop by observing key signs of maturity, such as leaf colour and texture, scape curling, and bulb plumpness and firmness.
Proper harvesting, curing, and storage techniques can also help preserve the flavour of garlic for months to come.