Mid-August is hustle-and-bustle time for all gardeners who are in the midst of putting up their harvest. There are beans to can, corn to freeze, and herbs to dehydrate so that they can be enjoyed throughout the winter months. And here in Morrow County, Ohio, those winter months seem to last a heck of a long time. And when the weather turns bad, and it becomes too dangerous to drive, I don’t always have a way to get to town for food, so investing time into having a well-stocked pantry of healthy food is always a priority.
One of the pantry staples I always have on-hand, and one of the easiest garden goodies to grow and harvest, is garlic. (Oh, I can just taste it now: homemade marinara, creamy garlic soup, fresh-outta-tha-oven peasant bread dipped in garlic-infused olive oil.) With so many great recipes that include garlic, home cooks should have it in their kitchens, but it can be a pricey item, especially if you want the good stuff. I mean, some of these suburban gourmet groceries are charging at least $1.50 per head of organic garlic. If you’re like me, I’d rather use my grocery budget on items that I can’t grown myself or buy from my farmer friends.
This is the second year that I grew the garlic variety “Duganski,” a hardneck bulb that has purple stripes. For me in Zone 5b, Duganski is usually ready to harvest mid-July, producing medium-to-large heads. I have grown “Music” in past years for farmers’ market and CSA production, but lost my entire seed stock to a polar vortex winter, leaving all of my harvestable garlic mushy (talk about soul-crushing).
When I harvested this year’s garlic crop, I was a little disappointed, with many heads being on the smaller side. I must admit, I got lazy in June, and didn’t water enough during a dry spell and wasn’t as vigilant about weeding as I should have been. Nonetheless, I removed all the scapes, and we enjoyed many garlicky dishes. When I harvested the garlic a week after the Fourth of July, I cleaned and dried all of it, regardless of size. It’s been about a month of drying time, keeping the garlic on the shady front porch, and I’m ready to get the bulbs in storage.
The largest of the heads will be saved for reseeding in October. I’ll prep the garlic patch in a fresh spot, not replanting in the same location to reduce the likelihood of disease infecting next year’s crop. I advise planting at least one clove per week of the year, but I usually plant 60 cloves to have seed stock, too. Each clove will grow into a head of garlic, and I use about a head a week. You can adjust your planting to meet your needs.
Prep Garlic for Storage
Now that my garlic is ready for storage, I snip off the stalk (I leave them on during the drying process) and trim the roots to about a half inch or less. I remove the outtermost layer of skin, especially if all of the dirt wasn’t removed.
I have also found that my cellar is way, way too damp to successfully store garlic. We have since purchased a dehumidifier, so hopefully that will enable us to store more food down there, along with the ghosts and spiders.
Instead, I lay most of my dry garlic heads in a single layer in a shallow cardboard box lid. Fifty bulbs do not take a lot of room, so you can store a year’s worth of garlic in a small container. I keep them in a dark, dry area of my laundry room. The key to remember is dark and dry. If you put garlic in a damp area (like my cellar), you’ll end up with moldy garlic, and I doubt that tastes good.
Freezing in Oil
Another way to preserve garlic that you can try, and one that I reserve for my smaller heads, is freezing in olive oil. Simply peel and slice or mince the cloves and place in an icecube tray (which is time-consuming now, but will prove to be a time-saver when you’re cooking). A mini food processor will make this much faster. Top off each cell with olive oil and freeze. After a few hours, pop the garlic-and-oil cubes out of the tray and toss into a freezer bag. According to ucfoodsafety.ucdavis.edu, you can safely store garlic this way for several months, but I find that it’s gone before I have to worry about expiration. I’ve frozen fresh herbs this way, as well, with tremendous success. To thaw, I remove a few cubes from the freezer bag and put them in a bowl to liquify. Or, I’ll toss a cube in a hot pan, and in no time, the garlic is sizzling and ready for your recipe.
And know that this doesn’t have to be done right away. If you’re pressed for time (it’s almost MoCo fair time, so we’re busy getting my son’s goats ready for show), and need to prioritize other garden goodies, garlic will keep until you have time. And before you know it, it’ll be October and time to plant your garlic for next year.
Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page.
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