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
- Making Tomato Sauce
- Canning Fresh Asparagus
- Water-Bath Canning Pears In Light Syrup
- Canning Garden Corn
- Easier Dill Pickles
- One Quart At A Time Refrigerator Pickles
- Harvesting & Preserving Coriander (Cilantro)
- Preserving The Harvest: Oregano
- Accumulating Okra When Your Harvest Is Small
- My Simple, Zero-Waste Herb Drying Setup
…And Much MORE!
- Preserving The Harvest: Dehydrating Fresh Carrots
- Dehydrating Fresh Pumpkin For Easy Storage
- Dehydrating Spinach To Enjoy All Year Long
- Using A Dehydrator To Preserve Fresh Onions
- Dehydrating & Storing Cabbage
- Bell Pepper Dehydration
- Using A Solar Oven To Dehydrate Garden Produce
- How To Make Dehydrated Blueberry Powder
- Dehydrating Plums
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