Friday, 16 June 2017

Is Your Garlic Ready To Harvest?

The hardest thing about growing garlic is knowing when to lift it.

Planting is easy, growing is easy, care is easy ... but knowing exactly when to harvest can be kinda tricky.

Garlic harvest can also vary, depending on the area that you live in, when you planted, the weather, and the variety that you planted.

 Garlic growing in late spring

In general, for most of us here on the west coast, harvest will be in early to mid July.

Scapes ...

About a month before harvest, you will find scapes forming at the top of your hardneck garlic plants.

These yummy curlicues are super tasty greens that can be used in stir fries, made into pesto, grilled on the barbie, or chopped into your eggs/salads.

Scape season is relatively short, just a couple of weeks at the most. You want to harvest when they are young and tender, just as they have made one curl or are starting to do so. If you wait till they get older, they'll be tougher, a bit woody.

The scape is easy to harvest, no knives required. Go to the spot where the scape comes out of the topmost leaf and simply snap it off between your fingers. If it is bendy and does not snap easily, that means it is getting older and woodier, go up a little bit higher on the stalk and snap there instead.

Common lore tells us to remove the scape or the garlic will put it's energy into flowering rather than making a good sized bulb. I must admit that I have never noticed any size difference, whether I snap them off, or not. While not always the size of the monster garlic in the picture above, they seem to size up well regardless.


After scape time is finished, it's usually about three weeks till harvest. Stop watering now, let the garlic grow dry for the last few weeks before you lift the bulbs. The 'stress' of growing dry forces more growth into the bulb.

You also do not want wet bulbs or wet soil on your bulbs at harvest, as they tend not to cure as well. Last year was a prime example of that here on the island. We had too much rain, followed by too many days of grey skies and humidity. The soil was wet when we lifted our garlic, the bulbs were plump with moisture, and the days were neither hot nor dry enough for the garlic to cure well.  

Bottom 2 to 3 leaves are brown

Getting close.... 

The answer is all in the foliage. Each leaf on the garlic stalk is a skin/wrapper on your bulb. You want to keep an eye on those bottom leaves. When the leaves look as they do in the picture above, you are getting close, only a week or so to go.

Do not pick yet at this stage, is just a titch too early, the bulbs are still growing. Wait until the foliage has dried half way up the stalk, so the bottom 4 or 5 leaves are yellow/brown and the top 4 or 5 are still green. The waiting is the hardest part!

This artichoke variety (softneck) of garlic was left in the ground too long 
so has split it's wrapper. 

If you leave them in too long, they will lose their protective skin/wrapping. Do not let too many of those leaves turn brown.

The split bulbs are edible, but they will not cure or keep. Take split ones inside, wash them up, use for cooking, mince into oil (use up in two weeks), or freeze for use at a later date.

When ready, gently lift your garlic from the soil. Do not pull on the stalk unless you have really, really soft and friable soil, or you risk ripping the stalk right off of the bulb. Loosen with a garden fork or transplanting spade.

Brush the soil off with your fingers, do not wash or hose off with water. Do not remove the stalks, roots, or wrappings at this time.

Set out to cure on tables, or hang in bundles, in a shady, airy location. Average curing time is two to three weeks, though I tend to leave mine out for much longer than that.

When fully cured, remove the stalks, trim the roots, brush off the remaining soil from the bulbs. Store in a cool, dry spot.

For more in-depth information about how to harvest and cure, please see HERE!

Happy Harvesting! (just not quite yet!)

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