Knowing when to harvest garlic can be tricky—the crop is underground after all. So, like a tea-reading fortuneteller, the secret is in the leaves. And in the curing. You have to cure garlic.
With onions, tulips, daffodils and other bulbs, you harvest when all of the leaves have turned brown. Not so with garlic. Wait until all the leaves are brown and you’ll probably be pulling up mushy garlic.
Instead, harvest the garlic when only the bottom leaves are brown, but the top half-dozen or so leaves are still pert and green. I like to let my garlic air out for a few days after I harvest it—put it in a shady and airy place for two or three days to begin to cure (leave the stems on!) and to give the green leaves a chance to dry out.
I harvested a bunch of garlic last week but wasn't sure how to hang it up to preserve it. A quick Google search told me that I could braid the stalks together OR I could braid a bunch of string together and then tie the garlic onto the string.
Both options seemed like a lot of work.
I sat there holding my garlic muttering "there must be an easier way . . ." when my husband walked by and shouted "zip ties!"
Yes! Zip ties!
That guy. Easy on the eyes AND a thinker.
So I bundled up some of the biggest heads of garlic to make what would become the bottom of the garlic . . . ristra? (In New Mexico, chiles hung up in this similar fashion are called ristras, so I'm just going to go with it.) I held onto the necks of the garlic with one hand while I wrapped and threaded a zip tie with the other . . . single-handedly!
I am amazing. Truly.
I proceeded to bundle garlic around the stalks of the garlic that had been bundled before it, adding zip ties as I went (usually after adding an additional 2-3 rows of garlic). To make it pretty, I clipped off the excess tail of the zip tie after it had been tightened.
Repeat until you run out of garlic! I’ve noticed that I can get about 30 heads of garlic in one bundle before it starts to get too heavy and thick to work with. If you reach this point just start another bundle. This year I managed to get three bundles out of our garden.
Hang the garlic up where it will stay dry but also have plenty of air circulating around it. The front or back porch are good options. You can eat the garlic right away but you might notice it has a very sharp and acidic flavor. By letting the garlic cure for a couple of months you’ll round out the sharp acidic-ness and get a nice garlicky flavor that is a little easier to handle.
As an added bonus, you won’t have to worry about vampires this year.
Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.
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