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A Year’s Worth of Garlic

Sunday, October 16, 2016 14:58
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In August, I harvested the garlic.

Last year I had the durndest time harvesting the garlic. This is because I made the mistake of mulching the bed with old hay … and the hay grew. Additionally I was fighting a particularly pernicious grass which reproduces vegetatively through long roots.



Unless I can dig out those roots, the grass simply grows back. Breaking the roots into bits just increases the number of rootstocks that can regrow (kind of like that scene from the old movie “Fantasia” with the sorcerer’s apprentice where the chopped up broomsticks reform into new broomsticks). It’s nasty stuff.

So last year it took me three days to harvest the garlic in this fairly small bed. Most of the time was spent tracing out and removing the roots of weeds.

So this year I was very very careful to keep the weeds out of the garlic.





So by the time harvest came, it was simple as pie to dig it all up. Took me only about an hour.





What a contrast to last year. I still had a few weeds…





…but I pulled those (roots and all) as I dug the garlic, so they wouldn’t regrow and plague me next year.

The garlic quickly overflowed the bushel basket I was using…





…so I stopped and trimmed the stems from the bulbs, then continued digging more garlic.





An hour later, all done.





The garlic filled the basket about two-thirds full.





After letting the garlic dry for a few days, I sat down in the barn and prepared to trim it. Some people prefer to hang their garlic whole, but since we don’t have a root cellar or basement, I’ve found it’s best to preserve the garlic by canning it. Trimming and peeling is the first step.





I grow a German porcelain-neck garlic. Rather than those annoying cloves that get smaller and smaller toward the center, this kind of garlic has large (and sometimes huge) cloves around a central stiff (or “porcelain”) stem. It’s got a nice bite to it, just as garlic should.





Here’s some of the larger cloves next to eggs, for purposes of comparison.





This kind of garlic is fairly easy to peel. It’s a pleasant task to sit in the barn for an hour or so at a time and peel garlic. It took me a few days to work through the whole shebang.





Occasionally the chickens would wander over and kind of hang around, keeping me company.





I pulled aside a fair bit of nice cloves…





…then counted out how many I needed, and kept them for re-planting the bed.





Here’s all the debris from peeling.





The end result, peeled and ready to wash.





Total weight: 12 pounds.








Then came the laborious task of washing (and sometimes scrubbing) each clove to get the surface and ingrained dirt off. This is really really boring. I did it in stages to make it more tolerable, but it’s still boring. If anyone has a better idea for how to wash garlic, I’m all ears.




After this, it was time to can the garlic. I chopped it up in batches.





The garlic shouldn’t be cooked, but only parboiled. To do this, I boiled a large pot of water, then turned off the heat and dumped in the chopped garlic for about ten minutes.





While it heated, I got my jars ready. Since garlic is low-acid, of course it needs to be pressure-canned.

I drained the garlic, making sure to save the cook water.





Filling jars with chopped parboiled garlic.





Topping off with cook water.





Wiping the rims, which also lets me check for nicks.





Scalding the Tattler lids.





Then I pulled out my pressure canner. It’s the first I’d used it since I had the gauge checked last February.





Jars in the canner, two layers.





Up to pressure, adjusted for elevation. I kept it here for 25 minutes (pints).





I just love the sight of a finished canning project.





All this chopped canned garlic should be plenty to last us for a year. But if we wanted to look forward to more garlic next summer, I had to get what I’d held back for planting into the ground.

So in late September, I made sure the garlic boat was free of weeds…





…then laid out the cloves to space them evenly.








I had a couple of garlic plants sprouting from some cloves that got left behind when I harvested.




Once the cloves are spaced out, it takes no time at all to plant them. I had some cloves left over, which I gave to a neighbor who was interested in cultivating more garlic.





Then I gave the bed a nice layer of pine needle mulch.








That does it for garlic for the year. Except for (hopefully) some light weeding next summer, I shouldn’t have to do much until it’s time to harvest again.



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