|My dad took this picture.|
It took six hours to pick and clean 350+ heads of garlic (grown at my parents' house in the country, not our little city backyard). We're growing about 15 different kinds of hardneck bulbs. I've gotten to know them over the past nine years (they are the crop I have been the most serious about for the longest) - Romanian red is early, California is huge, German red is bumpy and storied and gorgeous.
|Earlier in the season|
Garlic is my favorite. Except for lilies. And meadow voles. And some other things. Garlic is good for you, and when you add it to any of the other foods, they become delicious.
|Garlic poached in olive oil, in a baking dish made by artist Nannette Burti.|
The best garlic is uncured garlic, and it's not around for long. You pick it and you cook it. If you could squeeze it in a satisfying way, which you can't, it would burst. It is full of water that is garlic. It is white, silky, and hard to peel, because the peel is more plant than paper. It sizzles in the pan forever, and you can't burn it, and it doesn't get bitter. It just gets better.
If you are interested in the "how to grow garlic" part, here it is: We plant sometime in the first half of October (in Pennsylvania). I select the best bulbs - not the largest, not the smallest, but the shapeliest. They say your garlic adapts to your garden over the years, so we always use our own stock. We plant in a patch where garlic has not grown in a year or so, and add compost first. Cloves are spaced a spread-hand-width, two inches down. Mulch is oat straw, about six inches thick, which protects cloves from heaving in the winter, keeps out most weeds, and conserves moisture.
Then I sit on my butt and do absolutely NOTHING but drink and eat and watch movies for the next nine months. This, I understand, is better than being pregnant, because I get to drink.
Sometime in May-June, if we get around to it, we snap off the scapes (flower stalks), which supposedly forces the plant to put its energy into sizing up a respectable bulb instead of producing seed. We eat the scapes. They are okay, but not great. Or we forget about them, because we are so busy sitting on the couch, and they grow, form bulbils, and get all woody. And bulb size really doesn't seem to suffer. Our garlic the past two years has been on the rather large side, which I attribute to it being happy where it grows.
Picking happens in July when some leaves (half?) have turned brown, but not all! This is the only critical point. If all the leaves, or even almost all of the leaves, turn brown and die, that means the peel has lost its integrity and the garlic is naked! Not good for storage. Pick, wash in a bucket of water to remove soil from roots, and lay out or hang in a dry, dark, not too hot place with plenty of air movement. After a few weeks, the stalks and roots can be cut off with pruners (they have done their job of wicking out excess moisture, and the garlic is cured and ready for storage).