June 4, 2012


Today's project: trimming and cleaning the garlic to prepare it for long-term storage.

Basket of cured garlic

Back in the fall we planted two 4 x 8 beds of garlic, which is not too much for our family especially since it can be stored for at least six months. One was a hardneck variety called "Music" and one was a softneck variety called "California Early". I like to experiment with different varieties each year, but always pick one of each type for their different qualities. Hardneck garlic has an intense, garlicky flavor but doesn't store as long; softneck garlic tends to have a more mellow garlic flavor, but stores much longer after harvest.

Bed of "Music" garlic

A few weeks ago, the hardneck "Music" plants developed curly flower stems, called scapes, and that meant it was going to be time to harvest soon.

Scapes on the "Music" plants

This year I harvested a little early because of an unidentified pest/mildew/rot that was attacking my hardneck plants. (I did see full bulbs of garlic two weeks ago at the farmer's market from a local farmer, so I know that some of them had already harvested their garlic, too.)

Damaged garlic bulbs

I lost about one-third of the hardneck plants and figured I could either take the rest out early or leave them in and risk losing even more of the crop. Turns out, the bulbs were pretty well developed and it was good timing anyway. Normally I would spread them out for curing on my screened-door-turned-drying-rack, but that was already in use with the onions, so I had to get creative.

Mesh chair put into service as a drying area for garlic

Upside down soil sifter had great airflow for curing

I forgot about the garlic for a couple of weeks, and now it's ready to be prepped for storage. The first step is to cut off the stem. I choose to leave a slightly longer neck on the hardneck varieties so that later on in the kitchen I can tell the difference between those and the softnecks.

Cutting the stem off the cured garlic

Next, trim the roots so there is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch left on the bulb. How much you leave seems to be a matter of personal preference.

Trimming the roots from the bulb

Finally, peel away the dirty, papery outer layer from the bulb, and you are left with a beautiful bulb of garlic that is ready for long-term storage.

Lovely garlic bulb, ready for storage

Last year, we experimented and stored some of our bulbs in a cloth onion bag in the fridge and some in a cloth onion bag in a low cupboard. After about five months, some of the bulbs in the cupboard did start to come out of dormancy and so we placed those in the fridge, but I'd say both methods were satisfactory.

Did you plant garlic this year and is it ready to harvest? Got any favorite, unique varieties?


  1. Josh planted a ton and we even used the scapes for a pesto. So tasty. I don't know what kind, but he would know for sure.

    1. We've never done anything with the scapes because I didn't find out they were tasty until last year. This year I didn't bother clipping them since I harvested early. Pesto sounds like a great option. Did you just saute them up and then blend with oil and nuts?

  2. We had some trouble with the bottoms of our hardnecks rotting out. I don't know if it was pest damaged or watering, but we still got about 50 good bulbs. We planted Music too as well as Gregorian Fire. It is supposed to be very hot and spicy. We will see.

    The scapes were delicious. Definitely a perk of growing the hard neck garlic. Not sure how I will store them. Last year our onions molded in the pantry. I will have to work something out.

    Keep up the gardening!