I grow garlic every year. I plant it in the Fall and harvest it the next Summer. I tried growing garlic bought from a seed company the first year, but found that not only was it very expensive, it did not grow well in my garden. So the next year I bought a handful of ordinary garlic from the supermarket for about 50 cents, took it home, separated it into "toes" (leaving the paper skin on each toe), and planted it in my garden pointy side up about 1 inch deep in the soil. I watered it as I would any garden veggie until the Winter rains came. Then I pretty much ignored it and left it to grow on its own until the warmer weather came back the next Spring and Summer.
When the garlic tops (leaves) started to turn brown in late May or early June, I test-dug one bulb to check for size, and then harvested all of the bulbs over the next day or two. I washed each bulb with cold water and veggie scrub brush, leaving the long stem and leaves intact. I then braided the garlic as best I could to hang over my kitchen sink in front of the window to dry and to be handy when I needed it for cooking. I made sure that I reserved 3 or 4 nice looking heads for planting next season's crop.
I have been growing and harvesting my homegrown garlic in this way for the past 10 years. Each year I use some of the garlic that I harvested in the Summer to start my new crop in the Fall. It works very well, and I have been very happy with the results. Some years have been better than others. Other years have had odd weather and small bulbs resulting. Some years have had huge bulbs produced. One year I had an invading gopher (yes, in my raised bed!) and had to dig up my half grown garlic bulbs and transplant them into another raised bed to finish out the growing season while we repaired the hole in the original raised bed. That was fun. Not.
Anyway, until this past year I usually planted the same type of garlic each year. Descendents from that original handful that I purchased at the local market. The common California White, a softneck variety of garlic. I live fairly close to the Garlic Capitol of the World, Gilroy, CA where there are fields upon fields of CA White garlic growing prolifically. I am sure there are other types grown too, but the most common one we see in the markets is CA White softneck.
I have always enjoyed my homegrown CA White. It has a medium-strong garlicky flavor that I used in a variety of dishes. It keeps very well hanging in braids in my kitchen for months after I harvest it in Summer. It is easy to peel once it has dried a bit.
This photo below and the photo of the garlic braid at the top of this post is from my current crop of CA White softneck garlic. I think it is beautiful. I love looking at it, and enjoy having it decorate my kitchen.
California White Garlic
Last Fall, inspired by my local organic farm store's variety of garlic that they had for sale and also by two of my favorite blogging friends, Farmgirl_dk from Critter Farm and frugalmom from Fancyin' the Farm Life and both of their garlic gardening adventures, I decided to try growing a few different types of garlic along with my favorite CA White. I chose about 4 varieties from the farm store. I don't even remember their names. One was purple. One was reddish brown. Another was tan. At least two of them were hardneck varieties. One was the standard CA White like the one I had already grown. I thought I'd compare store-bought to my own homegrown garlic descendents as far as growing and bulb production.
So I planted my usual 5 or 6 rows of garlic, some of the new varieties along with my CA White, each row having about 7 or 8 plants. They all sprouted and grew through the Winter months. This photo shows how my garlic bed looked in late Spring:
That's broccoli, lettuces, chard and bok choy you see growing in between the garlic rows. I find that the close proximity of the garlic helps repel the bugs and slugs from my tender greens.
I found that my homegrown CA White garlic descendents grew much bigger and stronger than the store bought CA White, by the way. I have a theory that has proven true with many crops in my garden. My theory is that plants adapt to their local environment, the weather, the soil, the air, the gardener's vibes, and whatever else affects plant growth. I have noticed that each succeeding generation of plants grown from seeds (or in this case, bulbs) from a homegrown plant, is bigger, stronger and produces better than new seeds just being introduced to my garden environment (like from purchased seed packets). This works best with open pollinated varieties as opposed to hybrid plants.
Continuing on my garlic growing adventure, I read all about the phenomenon of garlic scapes on Fancyin' the Farmlife, and then I ran out to my garden with my camera and found these odd looking spiral flower stalks on every hardneck variety garlic plant.
Garlic Scapes in the Garden
I had never grown hardnecks before, only the softneck CA White. This was a new, exciting and weird happening for me and my garden. Apparently, only the hardnecks send up scapes as the weather warms in late Spring/early Summer. The scape is a flower stalk (you can see the flower bud in the photo). It is recommended that the gardener prune off the scapes to allow more nutrition to be available for the garlic bulb's growth. So I did that:
Severed Garlic Scapes
The scapes tasted like "green garlic" and were quite good. I understand that they make a lovely pesto sauce. I used them in my normal cooking as I would any garlic. I chopped them up small and put them in soups, stir fries, stews, eggplant parmesan etc.
And they added delicious flavor to my homemade pizza!
Homemade Pizza! Yum!
Garlic is good! Plant your own this Fall.
© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket