If you like garlic (and who doesn’t) then you would love The Garlic and Harvest Festival that my hometown has every year. It is a pretty big event in my area with live entertainment, amusements, garlic cooking demonstrations, garlic growing lectures, crafts, fresh garlic and farm produce, garlic specialty food vendors and a garlic food court. All the vendors have samples for your to try so basically you start at one end of the fair and eat your way to the other end. Yumma!
Every year they have a few booths that sell hot sauce and every year my son has to try it. The hot sauce comes in different varieties and different heat levels. My son always goes for the hottest one there is. I really don’t know how he does it (or why?). I am amazed at how anyone can eat something so hot and walk away like it was nothing. Usually a small crowd gathers around because there are not very many people brave enough (or stupid enough) to attempt trying the “hot sauce from hell.” Within seconds his face turns pale with red blotches everywhere. He takes his hat off because he starts to sweat and his eyes start to tear but he keeps his cool and just walks away (looking for a vender that sells bread or fire extinguishers!) There is no way that I would ever attempt to try it but I’m not there for the hot sauce, nor am I there for the food, (ok, ok I am there for the food!!). My soul purpose is to get garlic. I want garlic to plant in my garden.
When I was planting my garden this spring I looked everywhere trying to find garlic to plant. I did know I couldn’t just plant the kind you get at the grocery store and expect to get good results. I didn’t know that you had to wait until the fall when the leaves are almost all gone from the trees before you can plant and that you had to wait until summer the following year before you can harvest (darn). I wanted local garlic so it would be hardy in my climate and be able to withstand our harsh Connecticut winters. I learned that there are lots of different types of garlic to choose from but the most important thing to look for is if the garlic is a hardneck or softneck variety. Softnecks are best for mild climates. They are called softnecks because the whole plant dies down leaving nothing but the bulb and flexible stems that are easy to braid. They keep longer but they are less hardy and make small, very strong flavored cloves. Hardnecks do best in our climate where the winters can get really, really, really cold. Unfortunately they have a stiff stem in the center that makes braiding impossible. I really wanted to try my hand at braiding garlic and visioned them hanging in my kitchen (darn, darn). I bought German Hardy Garlic. It has a strong garlic flavor, it is easy to grow, easy to peel and has a large head size of 4-6 cloves.
They say growing garlic is incredibly easy, you just need to know when to plant it. A good rule of thumb is to plant it shortly after Columbus day, mid October in my area. The soil needs to be loose, very fertile and weed free. Garlic does not like to have to compete with anything else when it grows. Some people say to plant your garlic 8″ apart and 2″ deep but the farmer that I bought my garlic from suggests planting it 3-4″ deep and approximately 4″ apart. So I compromised and planted mine 4″ deep and 6″ apart. Insert the cloves root side down, pointed end up and cover with soil. When green shoots come up you should mulch around them. When the first hard freeze comes and kills the shoots then you want to get out there and cover the whole bed with mulch. Now you simply wait until Spring when the garlic starts to grow again. When the new shoots appear pull back the mulch. Give them a shot of fertilizer…liquid seaweed and fish emulsion work great if you can stand the smell. Keep them weeded and watered.
- Columbus Day- plant garlic
- Taxday- fertilize
- Mothers day- fertilize
- Fathers day- check for scapes, cut to lowest point if curled and use in your favorite recipe just like you would use garlic
- July 4th- check for wilting and dry leaves. When 50% of leaves are dry and brown pull garlic.
With hardneck garlic you want to make sure to cut back the tender young scapes so the plants energy will go to making garlic bulbs not flowers. I figure that is a pretty good deal because then you can use the scapes like you would garlic.
Once you harvest your garlic you want to let the bulbs cure. Let them dry in a single layer someplace out of direct sunlight where it is warm but not too hot. When the outer skin is papery, brush off the dirt and clip the roots. To store your garlic you should keep it at 55-70 degrees with moderate humidity and good air circulation. Whatever you do keep it out of the refrigerator! The cold from the fridge will cause it to sprout and don’t use plastic bags because that will cause it to rot. I use a brown paper bag with holes punched out of it to store my root vegetables. I keep my onions, potatoes and my garlic fresh that way for a long time.
I am really excited to try my garlic come summer. It will be something to look forward to and I will let you know if it is as easy to grow as they say it is. In the meantime I will be looking for new ways to use it for both my animals and my family because how does that saying go? “A clove of garlic a day keeps the doctor away”? Or something like that 🙂