Gourmet Garlic: Harvesting


| 7/15/2014 10:08:00 AM


Tags: garlic, British Columbia, Canada, Andrea Cross,

Yellow leavesI am going to take another detour from discussing the various types of gourmet garlic, this time to talk about harvesting, processing, and curing garlic. Harvesting garlic is nearly upon us, and every year I receive questions from growers regarding when is the best time to harvest their garlic. There is not always an easy answer, since the weather, usage and cultivar will all influence timing. For example, garlic matures at different rates in different climates. Hot climates prompt garlic to mature faster, resulting in an earlier harvest season compared with cooler climates in which the garlic matures more slowly.

Pre-Harvest

We generally begin to harvest in mid-July. Approximately two weeks before our prospective start date, we begin to tinker with our soil moisture. The idea is to strike a balance between having enough moisture to keep the roots damp, allowing the bulb to continue sizing up, and having enough dryness above the root level to prevent the decaying outer skins of the garlic from attracting pathogens which may compromise the bulb. For those prior two weeks, we try to keep the soil moisture around 25-30%.

Allowing the soil to partially dry makes removal of the bulbs more straightforward. Bulbs are also easier to clean since drier dirt can often be simply shaken or brushed off. Finally, a dry soil will give you a head start on the curing process, making post-harvest storage less risky and variable. Be wary, however, of allowing your soil to dry out too much or too soon, since overly-dry soil forces garlic to early maturity, resulting in smaller bulbs and less overall yield. When unsure, always err on the side of moisture.

Ideally you will be able to control your ground moisture, but unfortunately, the weather does not always cooperate, especially in regions that are less arid. Rainfall, although helpful earlier in the season, can cause havoc near harvesting time. Wet soil makes the bulbs difficult to lift, and the threat of rot is ever-present, especially when combined with high heat. If possible, you should delay your harvest until the soil has partially dried. This is, of course, not always practical, especially if you have a large area to harvest. It is better to harvest in moist conditions than risk leaving the garlic in the ground where it is susceptible to rot and over-maturing.

If you do have to harvest in moist conditions, ensure you store the harvested bulbs in a dry place, with good air circulation so that the surface of the skins dry as soon as possible. Never expose the bulbs to direct sunlight for any significant period of time, since this can cause discoloration of the bulb skins.




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