by Texas Homesteader ~
I use garlic often in my cooking. It lends a vibrant flavor to even the simplest of savory dishes.
Here’s how I easily plant, harvest and preserve the garlic harvest.
The health benefits of garlic are well documented. So I make sure to plant plenty in my garden each year.
But how do you preserve a full garden’s harvest of garlic? I want to make sure that not a single clove of my homegrown garlic goes bad.
Garlic In The Home Garden
We usually grow an entire bed of garlic in our garden. I understand garlic plants repel aphids and many garden pests in the garden too.
And they make great companion plants for tomatoes and peppers as well. So in addition to my garlic bed, I usually plant a few close by those crops too if possible.
When To Plant Garlic
My garlic was planted in the fall of last year. I’d saved full heads from the largest garlic bulbs I harvested. I simply placed them in a labeled paper sack and stored them in the door of my refrigerator.
So in late September or early October when it’s time to plant, those largest heads are separated into cloves & those are planted to grow the garlic harvest for next year.
Using this save-the-best method means my garlic harvest improves each year. And my garlic variety continually adjusts to our specific growing environment.
Or heck, sometimes I’ll plant a head that’s sprouted. That one head will make lots of garlic since each clove planted will grow into a new head of garlic.
I’ll mulch the bed heavily with fallen leaves to protect the garlic as it goes through the cold winter months.
Garlic Emerges In The Spring
Then in the spring all of that garlic I planted last fall sends green shoots up from the soil.
I typically mulch the garlic bed again each spring to keep the soil soft and lightly moist. This helps the garlic cloves grow larger since the newly-formed cloves don’t have to push against dry, hard soil.
Cut Garlic Scapes For Larger Garlic Bulbs
Garlic scapes usually make their appearance around the first of May. Those are a actually just the garlic’s blooms.
But I’ll cut them off to make sure the garlic’s energy goes into making large, plump heads instead of spending that energy on flowering and seeding.
The good news is that those garlic scapes are tasty! It’s usually our very first taste of fresh garlic for the season, before I even get to harvest any garlic bulbs from the garden.
Scapes offer a little milder garlic flavor than the actual cloves. I’ll typically chop the scapes and stir them into savory dishes as I’m cooking.
When To Harvest Garlic
Then around June, the bottom section of leaves start to yellow. That’s my cue that it’s harvest time!
But careful, don’t jump in and just start pulling. You can’t harvest garlic just by pulling.
If you try to do that, you’ll probably end up with a handful of green leaves with the bulb still beneath the ground.
How To Harvest Garlic Using A Garden Fork
Instead of pulling, garlic needs to be dug from the soil. Don’t worry, it’s easy. Especially if you’ve kept the garlic bed well mulched. That has helped the soil surrounding the garlic beads to stay light & fluffy.
To harvest my garlic I’ll take my gardening fork and plunge it about 6″ away from my garlic and about 10″ below ground. Then I’ll bring the handle downward to push the garlic up from beneath the soil.
Finally When I see the garlic bulb, THEN I can pull it. I’ll grasp the greenery & pull the garlic – greenery and all – from the ground.
Then I’ll shake the excess dirt from the garlic roots and set it aside as I go down the garlic row harvesting each plant.
How To Preserve Fresh Garlic
So after the garlic is harvested I often clean it up a bit by snipping the roots. Then I strip off a few of the bottom leaves to both clean off any clinging dirt as well as to uncover some of the outer paper layers of the garlic head. This will allow quicker drying.
Harvested garlic needs a time to cure in a cool, dry space with plenty of airflow before storing it. That helps garlic store longer. You’re basically giving the outer papery portion of your garlic bulbs a chance to dry out.
So I spread those cleaned garlic plants out on our covered back porch.
Sometimes I have to get creative. One year I used the slats on our porch bench as a garlic curing rack. I threaded the greenery through the slats, being sure to separate each head. #UseWhatchaGot!
They’ll get plenty of air circulation there as they continue to cure.
I typically cure them for a month or more. You’re looking for the outer skin to be dry & papery.
Storing Cured Garlic
Then when the garlic has been cured I bring it into the house for use. To store them I repurpose a cotton string from a cattle feed bag and tie the garlic in layers. I hang the whole thing on a pretty vintage hanger in my pantry.
The arm folds out for hanging and folds back flush to the wall when not in use. I loved it so much that I bought two of them at the antique store and now have them hanging on either side of my pantry. (Don’t you just LOVE ’em??)
When I need garlic in my cooking I’ll snip off a head of garlic from this hanger in my pantry.
But even through I’m using garlic pretty consistently I can never use it all fresh. Plus I’d like to have some to use in the winter months as well.
Preserving Garlic Cloves By Freezing
So I preserve the excess garlic by peeling the cloves as if ready to use. I’ve learned how to Peel A Whole Head Of Garlic in seconds! (I just love that kitchen hack, y’all)
Then I place all these peeled cloves into a repurposed container that I keep in the door of my freezer.
I’ve found the cloves don’t stick together even after they’re frozen. So when I want to use a clove of garlic I simply bring out my container, shake out a single clove or two and mince with a knife.
I’ve discovered that garlic doesn’t freeze rock hard so it’s easy enough to do. Sometimes I’ll allow it to thaw so I can easily run it through my garlic press instead.
We’ve noticed no difference in taste when using frozen garlic cloves. And since garlic is typically cooked in some way, obviously there would be no difference in texture either.
By preserving garlic this way I’ve side-stepped buying a product at the store that I can easily grow & preserve myself.
Healthy Home-Grown Garlic
Y’all know that’s all important to me from an environmental, health & financial standpoint too. You don’t eat more locally than out of your own garden!
Have you ever tried preserving garlic from the garden? What method of preserving garlic worked best for you?
Preserving The Harvest Posts
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- Preserving The Harvest: Oregano
- Accumulating Okra When Your Harvest Is Small
- My Simple, Zero-Waste Herb Drying Setup
…And Much MORE!
See All Preserving The Harvest Posts
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See All Our Dehydrating Posts
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Thank you for this information. Garlic was an accidental addition to our garden this year. I had a garlic bulb I’d purchased from the grocery store and it started sending out a shoot. So, we thought we’d give it a try. We have just harvested our garlic and I’ve used a few of the cloves in dill pickles I just put up last weekend. So, we’re hooked and will plant garlic from now on.
Sometimes store garlic won’t sprout because it’s been treated with something to deter sprouting to make it last longer on the store shelves. But you’re absolutely right Patsy, if a head of garlic spouts on my kitchen counter, that bad boy is going to be separated into cloves and planted in the garden. Then bibbidy-bobbedy-boo one head of garlic turns into 8-10 heads! And (to me) garlic just seems like such a trouble-free thing to grow. Enjoy your garlic (and your pickles!) ~TxH~
Thank you so much for the information about the easy way of peeling garlic and freezing garlic. I never thought to freeze it.
You asked for a recipe for pickling garlic. I have one called Russian Garlic Salad – not pickled but delicious. I must warn you that this is addictive. When my mother made this, she cautioned my father and me to not eat a lot of it. However, since it did not have a garlic taste, we kept right on eating. She finally had to take the jar away from us. In case you are wondering, we smelled from garlic for about 2 weeks. You could smell us from 10-15 feet away, depending on the temperature and direction of the wind.
She got this recipe watching a cooking show “the Frugal Gourmet”. Here it is and be forewarned:
Russian Garlc Salad
30 cloves of garlic, cleaned and peeled
1/2 C olive oil
1/4 C lemon juice
4 T white wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 t Dried oregano
Blanch the garlic in boiling water for 5 mintuies. Remove from the water, plunge into an ice water batch. Drain well.
Mix the remaining ingredients, add to the garlic. Transfer to wide mouth canning jar, seal. Place in refrigerator for 5 days before serving.
Serve at room temperature.
LOL – I know what you mean about smelling of garlic after eating too much of it at one time. My dad makes garlic baked potatoes and let me tell ya there’s some garlic in them! He scales it back for me & mom, but for him & RancherMan he loads ’em up! When RancherMan eats them it seems the garlic aroma seeps out of his very pores for days. HA! Thanks for sharing this garlic salad recipe, it sounds like it’s right up RancherMan’s alley. (in moderation, of course. LOL) ~TxH~
I never thought of freezing whole cloves. Great idea!
Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday. I hope to see you back this week!
Great tips on saving a ton of garlic, I always get minced, I just may buy it fresh now! Thank you so much for linking up to Merry Monday this week! I am sharing your post tomorrow on my Twitter. We hope to see you next week for another great party! Have a great week!
I grow hard neck garlic. I store all the garlic I grow in my basement. My basement is climate controlled most of the year. In the winter we heat our house with wood and our basement is not heated. It can get down to about 50 degrees down there. My garlic stays nice and tight all year until I am ready to harvest the previous year.
I absolutely LOVE garlic. In and on everything! I wanted to plant it this year but didn’t get to. Next year…its’ game on and hopefully I will have enough! I love it so much that–when company is coming over–instead of using air freshener or candles…I simply toss a bulb of garlic in the oven for a few minutes. Smells so inviting and then is ready to use on bread!! Thanks for sharing at the Friday Follow Along–and for making me hungry!
Heather, we eat lots of garlic as well but in the past other than hanging the cloves to dry them I didn’t have another method of preserving. Peeling and freezing the cloves has been HUGE for me having more garlic at my disposal. Next I’d love to dehydrate and grind the cloves for my own garlic powder.
I love garlic any way I can get it! I am also growing some this year next to my tomatoes and peppers, and I will be harvesting them soon. I didn’t know you could freeze the cloves whole, so I am going to try this. Thanks for the tip!
I really didn’t know about freezing garlic either Vickie until I gave it a try. It works beautifully for us. ~TxH~
We grow garlic, but I’ve never tried freezing it! Thank you for sharing this tip at Tuesdays with a Twist! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures
I haven’t got to our garlic yet. I plan to pickle a lot this year. your garlic heads look wonderful! Thank you for sharing at TTF.
Oh, diann, I’ve never thought about pickling the cloves. Hummmm…. sounds delicious! ~TxH~
I mince my garlic in a food processor and then add to a small jar. Add a thin layer of olive oil; screw on the lid and refrigerate. A 1/2 tsp. equals 1 garlic clove. So convenient when you need some minced garlic for a recipe. Top off with more oil as needed.
Oh Chris that’s a great idea – fresh minced garlic right in your fridge. Thanks for sharing. ~TxH~
freezing is a good idea, I did’t know you could do that. I haven’t managed to grow much garlic myself, but we bought some when it was cheap last season and chopped half of it into pieces, dehydrated it, and made garlic granules. We’ve run out of the half that we left fresh and using the granules now, its actually quite convenient, although I have to remind husband to only use a little, as its very strong! I wrote about this on my blog if you want the details.
I would love to dehydrate garlic – haven’t tried it yet but it promises to be on the short list! ~TxH~
I just harvested all of mine and cleaned it up, laid it on a flat board in our woodhouse until it dried and now have it in a basket in the kitchen. I would love to know if you dehydrated it whole and then stored or just dried it like I did and then freeze it. There’s nothing like the smell of onions and garlic in anything you cook.
I buy my garlic at the Farmer’s Market and never seem to be able to use it all before it dries out. I will certainly try your tip of freezing it next time!! Thanks! 🙂
Give it a try Candy, I think you’ll be pleased and no more wasted garlic! ~TxH~
My hard necked garlic was fine well in to January when I used the last of it. My soft necked garlic was braided and hung in the kitchen until April when I sliced and dehydrated the remaining cloves. I store the dehydrated garlic in a sealed jar to grind into powder as needed. This dehydrated state will last years.
Sally, I’m so anxious to dehydrate and grind my garlic. What do you use to grind it? ~TxH~