How and When to Harvest Garlic

LEARNING TO HARVEST GARLIC

Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the most popular kitchen staples throughout the globe. Garlic is a relative of the onion

Famous for its strong flavors, garlic is well known for its use in different cuisines.

It takes around eight months of the growing period. Once, we grow and harvest them well; it becomes available throughout the winter.

We should know two things before going for harvesting the garlic crop;

  1. When to Harvest Garlic
  2. How to Harvest Garlic

 

WHEN TO HARVEST GARLIC

Harvesting Garlic is a cumbersome job. Harvesting excessively early or late can destroy the principal flavor of the garlic. There are a lot of things said about the right time to go for harvest.

Before knowing anything else, it is important to know the types of garlic harvest.

When to Harvest Garlic
When to Harvest Garlic

There are different kinds of garlic; majorly classified into two groups:

  • Hard-neck garlic: They have a hard smell. These grow well in cold areas, having a shorter shelf life than the other variants. The stem comes out of the centre of the bulb.
  • Soft-neck garlic: These are the soft smelled variants. They have a longer shelf life. The stem and leaves of this variety are softer. 

 

IMPORTANCE OF RIGHT TIME FOR HARVESTING GARLIC

Timing is an essential part of the harvesting procedure of every crop. It is no different in the case of garlic.

Wrong timing can lead to unfavorable results. Two things might happen in case you do not harvest at the time:

  • If we dig before time, the bulbs will be small.
  • If we keep our crop in the ground for a longer time than desired, then the bulbs overripe and get split. The cloves will become loose from the head. 

 

SIGNS FOR HARVESTING GARLIC

There are a few indicators that show that the crop is ready to be out of the ground. The best way to figure out the right time, to begin with, the harvesting process is to check the leaves.

When the leaves are partially green and begin to dry out or become brown from the bottom of the stalk, then we can pick the crop.

The best harvest time would be when, lower leaves are brownish, and top 5-6 are green. The ideal time is to start when one-third of the leaves are dead. 

Remember not to exceed the time of two weeks once the foliage has turned brown as it may lead to overripening of the crop which hinders the taste.

CHECKING SAMPLES FOR SIGNS OF MATURITY

Pull up sample garlic once the changes in leaves are evident to get an exact idea of whether the crop is mature or not. Loosen the soil and dig up the sample. Remember not to disturb any other side plants while doing the process.

1) Size:

Check the diameter of the pulled bulb. If the pulled one is large enough to harvest, go ahead!

On the other hand, if the bulb is too small; then pull one or two more samples out from the ground and check them. Still, if the bulbs are not large enough, Leave the rest of the crop to ripen.

Remember not to wait for entire leaves to turn brown; it would spoil the taste and quality of the crop. If the leaves are one-half to two-thirds brown, we must harvest regardless of the bulb size.

2) Skin

Examine the sample bulbs to see if the skin is somewhat dry and thin. A mature bulb has tight wrappers, the skin of the bulb begins to dry out and become tight around the garlic cloves under the layers of soil.

If the skin is not tight yet, leave the crop for a few more days in the ground so that it develops completely.

3)Well-Formed Cloves 

Mature garlic will have properly defined cloves. Look for them using your hands.

If the bulb has well-formed cloves, then the crop is ready to harvest!

BEST TIME TO HARVEST GARLIC 

The time of the year when the harvest would be ready depends upon the planting time.

If you sow the crop in autumn, be ready to harvest it from the end of June. If you planted the crop in spring, the harvest would be ready by July, August and September depending upon the varieties.

HOW TO HARVEST GARLIC

Harvesting becomes super easy once you know the correct mannerisms.

So, let us discuss the various steps involved in the procedure. 

1) Dry out Garlic Bed

Stop watering the soil once the crop is ready to harvest! 

It would allow the crop to dry out a little and get more firm. Also, it would help to prevent the attack of microorganisms like fungus by reducing the moisture content.

2) Digging the Bulbs Out

Use a fork or a garden claw to dig the soil around the bulbs. Attempt to make a pit under the bulb as well to take out the roots easily.

Do not pull stem very hard to get the bulb out from the ground. Uprooting too hard by hands without excavating pits could be harmful to the crop. The stem of the crop may break since garlic has a determined set of roots. Once the bulb is out, shake it mildly to extract the extra dirt.

In case of Hard-neck garlic, stalks are quite harder; but it is the opposite in Soft-neck variants. Use your hands to dig up the latter.

It is desirable not to cut the harvest with an implement considering it may decay. Leave the tops attached. Do not cut them off.

3) Drying Garlic

Once the harvesting is over, Put the bulbs in the shade to dry them a little before the curing process. When the bulbs dry, the excess soil will come off itself. Do the process just for a few hours or overnight.

Garlic is sensitive to heat. So, never put the harvest in the sun for drying.

CURING GARLIC

It is essential to cure the crop for storage for a longer time. Curing is nothing rather than the complete drying process. When garlic dries, its skin shrinks and wraps around the bulb completely to provide complete protection to the content inside.

Let us discuss the various steps involved in curing one by one:

1) Get a Place for Curing

The garlic cures fully in a warm, and dry space. It should have good air circulation too. The best place would be outdoors where it is dry and out of sunlight with a lot of air circulation. A ventilated shed or barn may work too for the purpose if they have proper ventilation.

Attics are not an ideal choice for curing garlic since they are hot. If you plan to keep your harvest in the basement for curing process; Run a dehumidifier, or a small table fan may also work to keep the air circulation in place.

2) Correct Way to Cure Garlic

Keep the bulbs away from each other in a single layer. Each of them should get plenty of air. Never keep the crop over each other; they may not dry out completely leading to microbial attacks.

If you want to hang them for the curing process, then bundle them up in bunches of 8 to 10 garlic stems together.

Do not cut off the roots and stem before curing; it may damage the bulbs.

The process can take 3-4 weeks, depending on the humidity level at the place of curing.

3) Checking if curing is over

Before storing garlic, it is necessary to check whether it has cured or not.

There are several ways of checking the same. Let us discuss them here:

  • Skin: The skin of the bulb becomes completely papery once curing occurs properly.
  • Stem: The stem of the bulb becomes brownish if cured properly.

You can cut the stem about an inch above the top of the bulb to check for any remaining moisture. If you see something green in the centre of the bulb, leave the bulb to cure for a few more days.

STORING GARLIC

Once the curing is over, the crop is ready to store.

You may keep in mind the following things to store your harvest.

1) Preparing garlic for storage

Use scissors to cut the stem an inch or two from the bulb. Do not forget to trim the roots off. Use your fingers to remove extra soil gently. In the case of soft-neck varieties, we can leave the stalks and braid the garlic.

Remember not to wash them off or get the bulbs wet as it could be an invitation to the pests to attack.

2) Segregate damaged ones

Examine the bulbs and keep damaged and soft ones aside.

Use the damaged harvest first as they cannot be in storage for a long time.

3) Find an Ideal Place to Store Garlic

A dry place where the temperature is between 32 – 50 ˚ F is best suited for this process. Along with this, we need humidity levels between 50-60% for the best results. If the location is too damp, the crop may rot.

Try not to store garlic in the refrigerator; the germination process may begin a few days later.

4) Ways to Keep the Garlic in storage

 There are two ways to store Garlic- Hanging and Putting.

If you want to hang the Garlic, braid them first. Remember not to keep the braids in the kitchen as they may expose to the sunlight.

We can put the bulbs of garlic in a mesh bag, in woven baskets, brown paper bags, cardboard cases, etc. It just needs air to breathe.

We can store Soft-neck varieties for six to eight months. On the other hand, the shelf life of Hard-neck varieties is three to four months. However, we can store the latter at a freezing temperature that may help them survive for up to seven months without going bad.

ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR GETTING THE BEST OUT OF GARLIC

No need to worry if your harvest sprouted, you can still use them. Let us see how:

1) Garlic Powder: Dehydrate the cloves and Grind them to get the herb powder. You can use it in plenty of dishes.

2) Roasting and Freezing: We can roast the garlic and then freeze it for longer shelf life.

3) Replantation: Plant the sprouted garlic in the soil or in pots for getting those perfect garlic again the next season!

Also, Read- When to Harvest Potatoes 

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