Once mid-July passes, we scan the weather reports for a run of warm, dry days to harvest garlic in. We pulled samples from each of the three varieties we planted last fall — Phillips (above), and Music and Rossa di Sulmona (below) — to check on how they’re progressing. At the same time, this gives us some juicy, fresh garlic to cook with, one of the true delights of the season.
Our first planting of garlic was in 2008, and originally started with seven varieties. We’ve since winnowed it down to Music and Phillips, and only recently added the Rossa di Sulmona, an impulse purchase.
Along with favorable weather conditions, we look for the bottom two or three leaves to die off as a sign that the garlic is ready to harvest. Of equal importance are the remaining leaves, each representing a layer of protective papery skin surrounding the bulb. We look for five to seven left to ensure long storage.
This is the second year of planting the Rossa di Sulmona (above), which is still adapting to our soil and climate. This year’s harvest is promising, with enough seed for planting come fall. It’s said that red garlic is sweeter, and this particular variety is especially prized in Italy for its mild flavor.
At first glance, Music (above) is often mistaken for German Extra Hardy. The large bulbs characteristically contain only four to five cloves, making it a less economical choice for planting. However, its rich, nutty flavor — a clear favorite in a tasting against other garlics — makes it worth the space necessary for propagation.
Another red-skinned variety, Phillips (above), is named for the place in Maine it originates from. It comes up later in spring than the Music, though catches up and is harvestable at the same time as the others. Once the bulbs are pulled, they’re left in the sun briefly to dry the clinging dirt.
Through trial and error, we’ve learned to strip an outer layer off each bulb to rid them of any soil-borne pathogens that might affect their storage. After being cleaned, bulbs of Phillips (above) are ready for curing.
The bulbs are laid out on screens in a dry, warm room, and a fan to keep the air circulating. After only a day of curing, the Phillips (above) along with the rest of of the bulbs are already pinking back up.
Coming full circle, leftover garlic (above and below) from last season’s harvest, a year later and still viable.
Harvesting this week:
Garlic, favas, peas, kale, chard, radishes, and salad greens; planted onions and leeks.
Putting-up: Frozen Romano green beans.