Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
A couple years ago we had a great garlic harvest, so we decided we’d save more than usual for seed and double our patch. We planted lots of garlic cloves for this double patch, and had our sights on selling lots of garlic. The season, as it was, was a warm one and everything was ready early. Nature is sneaky that way, always keeping us guessing. The garlic was ready early, but the people were not ready early. We have our routines. We usually harvest by July 1st. We managed to harvest it a week or so early, but it needed to be harvested in mid-June. Alas, split garlic.
So…what do you do when life brings you split garlic? Make garlic powder! I sliced it in the food processor and laid it out on my dehydrator trays for drying. It’s important to dry it until it snaps in half. Bendy garlic will still clump in a jar. I put the dry pieces in my Vitamix and blitzed it into powder. I will note that I have a metal Vitamix container. I would be sad if my plastic Vitamix container smelled like garlic for the rest of its smoothie-making life. Little jelly jars of garlic made great holiday gifts. I cut a paper strip, decorated it and labeled it, and glued it around the jar.
It’s been half a year since those gifts and I am still hearing from friends how great it was. It really was exceptional. Garlic powder is usually made from soft neck garlic. Hard neck varieties tend to be more fragrant than soft neck varieties. Our garlic is hard neck, so this may have contributed to its fragrant being. Add to that organic and local and home-made and fresh and given with love—and you have a winning list of ingredients.
By far, the most time intensive part of the process is peeling garlic. To bruise it for easy peeling? To soak it in water? To crush a whole bulb and bang it around in between metal bowls? I wanted slices, not crushed garlic. The peeling process held me back from small production sales of my garlic powder.
Another way I preserved the garlic is freezing. I filled little jars with chopped garlic and olive oil, left air space at the top, and froze them. I used these jars of crushed garlic January-June, because the cured garlic bulbs only last a few months for us. I have a friend who pulled beautiful bulbs from her basement months after mine started to rot, so it may depend on storage conditions. So these jars of crushed garlic helped me through those in between months. I take one out of the freezer and put it in the frig, to use for a few weeks. (I think there is a botulism risk so make the jars small enough that you will use it up within a few weeks).
This year we had a nice garlic harvest again. But there is usually a small amount of split garlic that doesn’t make the grade, and won’t cure well for storage. I look at that little pile that usually ends up rotting in the corner of the barn, and I know I can make quick use of it. And I know how. I am grateful to the year when life brought me split garlic, because now I know how to make garlic powder.
Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 MOTHER EARTH NEWS Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at MOTHER EARTH NEWS and http://blog.houseinthewoods.com, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to http://www.houseinthewoods.com.