Friday, July 22, 2016
Garlic Harvest 2016
Growing healthy garlic in New York State is recognized as being nearly impossible. Garlic matures here early in early July and that month always features one series of thunder storms after another. When the garlic should be drying down it is flooded repeatedly with sometimes heavy storms. Each garlic leaf originates at the base of the bulb adjacent to the source of the roots. It is tightly wound as it climbs the stem. Where it leaves the stem to unfold as a flat leaf there is a weak point. When the leaf is green and growing the joint is watertight. As the leaf begins to weaken and die the seal leaks and water can enter the stem. Once inside the water drains directly down into the inside of the bulb. Wet bulbs appear tan colored rather than the white coloration that marks a recently harvested healthy bulb. This year I harvested early when we were between storms. Giving up one weeks growth seemed like a small price to pay for dry bulbs.
When first removed from the ground, garlic is a sorry sight. Its huge root mass holds wet muddy soil and the lower leaves are brown smudged with black soil mold. We spread the plants out on our wire cages where air freely moves above and below the drying garlic. One day after digging we clean up the mess. The root mass and its ball of mud is cut free with large scissors. Moving up the stem past the dead dried leaves, we find the first supple green leaf. It will cleanly pull free all the way to the base of the bulb. Then we return the clean plant to the cage to continue curing. At this point healthy bulbs are colored a solid white. Purple blotches at that time indicates a bulb that was partially filled with water. These bulbs are set aside for the food now bucket. As the bulbs cure purple stripes appear. At this time the bulbs are rather beautiful.
This planting of sixty cloves is marked Helen's. We supplied Helen with her seed stock and she returned some of her harvest to us. She had not previously grown garlic so her garden soil was free of the troublesome organisms that plague garlic growers. Her sixty planted cloves returned fifty-six healthy bulbs to us. This is the best return from the six different varieties we planted.
We know that the plants are curing nicely since our basement no longer smells like a salami factory. Our next step will be to shorten the dried stalks so the garlic can be stored perpendicular to the floor. Far more plants can be stored that way and we will once again be able to freely walk about. That will be short lived since it will then be time to harvest the onions.