Garlic is a plant that never stops growing. We plant it in the fall and, in the north, it grows quietly under the snow during the winter. Once the snow melts, we see it poking up out of the ground ready to make its summertime push.
It sends up a stalk and leaves and begins to flower; that’s the scapes that we cut off and stir-fry in late June. This encourages the plants to send all of their remaining energy down to the bulbs, our crop. When there are four green leaves left, it’s time to harvest the garlic.
At this point, pull out the garlic and tie them in bundles of eight. Be careful to stagger the bulbs so that they will all be exposed to the air. Hang them in a covered, breezy spot. A porch or outside shed is ideal.
They will cure for the next two to four weeks—the stems will dry out and turn brown and the dirt on the bulbs will mostly fall off.
Take them down and cut the stems to an inch or two. Brush off any extra dirt that is still on the bulbs and snip the roots to about half an inch. Put the biggest and nicest ones aside to replant in the fall. The remainder can go into a basket in the pantry for future use. They don’t need any special handling (darkness or cold), they prefer to be kept in a moderately warm spot.
When using the garlic, remember that it has two separate components in its cells. This alliin and alliinaise are in different parts of the cells and it is only when they are put together that the medicinal magic of garlic becomes available. For this reason, it is important to set the chopped or squeezed garlic aside for about ten minutes before adding it to any recipes. One of my favorite ways to use garlic is in salad dressing.
• ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
• 1 cup organic olive oil
• ½ teaspoon powdered mustard
• 2 chopped or squeezed garlic cloves (after setting aside for ten minutes)
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• generous dash of Himilayan pink salt
Mix them all together and add to salads.
Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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