Each clove of garlic planted in the bed should develop into a large bulb over time. But while the green grows visibly and a bloom may appear in summer, the tubers remain hidden in the ground. So how can we know for sure when it’s the right time to harvest garlic? Adjusting the optimal degree of ripeness ultimately decides on the aroma and storability of the garlic bulbs.
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Varieties and planting times
About 80 varieties of garlic are offered for cultivation. Planting the toes is recommended for fall. In this context one speaks of winter garlic, since it spends the winter in the garden soil. If, on the other hand, the cloves are not planted until spring, we are talking about summer garlic. Since it has less time to grow before harvest time, the bulbs are smaller than those of winter garlic. It will also be ready to harvest about a month later. But when it comes to garlic harvest time, we don’t look at the date or count the months that have passed. The variety is also not important. Instead, attention must be paid to the ripening indications that the garlic plant itself gives us.
Two harvest variants
From the first green leaf that the clove puts out, the garlic has its typical taste, albeit with different intensity. When cooking, it is this aroma that matters to us. Because of this, we can harvest garlic while it is in full growth, or wait until the bulb is fully mature and has reached a respectable size. Then its taste is more intense. If you love garlic, you can bet a larger amount and benefit from both variants.
Harvest time for green garlic
In the Balkans and elsewhere, green garlic is a regular dish in spring. Like spring onions in this country, it is offered in bundles on the market for everyone who does not have their own garden bed. It tastes different than ripe garlic cloves, but the typical garlic aroma is unmistakable.
- green, unripe garlic is only used fresh
- Harvest time begins as soon as “pickables” are ready
- pull whole plants out of the ground as needed
- depending on when it was harvested, the tuber can be small or larger
- the entire plant is edible
- only remove outer leaves and trim beard
- individual leaves can also be picked off
- however, leave enough leaves on the plant
- then the tuber can continue to grow
Wait for the tubers to ripen
In this country, when people talk about harvesting garlic, they usually mean removing the ripe bulbs from the bed. They grew up over the summer and developed an intense taste. They can be dried well and can then be stored for a long time. Ripe tubers must also be taken out of the ground as soon as possible, because they have reached the peak of their development. These are the visible signs that tell us the right time to harvest garlic:
- the foliage begins to turn yellow
- the leaves dry up from the top
- Toes peek out of the ground
- Harvest time is also affected by the weather
- for winter garlic, the time has come around July
- for summer garlic around August
When the foliage has almost died but is still firmly attached to the tuber, you can get Allium sativum out of the bed. Postponing garlic harvest time is not recommended.
This is how the tubers are harvested
How easy it is to harvest the tubers depends on how dry and compacted the soil is. Ideally, grasp the wilted foliage near the base with your hand and pull until the bulb comes off the ground. If only the foliage tears off instead, you have to do something else.
- Loosen the soil around the bulb with a small digging fork
- Push a small shovel sideways under the tuber
- Lever out the tuber with it
- alternatively water the bed and harvest after drying slightly
- or harvest in a rain-soaked earth
The first days after harvest
No matter how plentiful or modest your harvest has been. You will hardly be able to use everything in a short time. The garlic bulbs need to dry (at least the outer layers) if we want to enjoy their contents for a long time. If the soil is dry and no rain is announced, the harvested tubers can remain on the bed for a few days. Otherwise, find a dry, airy place outside under the roof or inside the house. There you can spread the tubers and leaves on a piece of cardboard or in a wooden box. Discard damaged tubers for immediate use.
Continue drying tubers
After a few days, here’s what you should do with the garlic bulbs:
- gently brush off dry soil
- Barthaare einkürzen
- Loosen loose outer leaves by hand
Continue drying the garlic until it has reached the optimum degree of drying. This can be done as before, or you can hang the garlic upside down in an airy place. You can braid it into pigtails. How long garlic needs to dry cannot be exactly quantified in days. The duration depends on the ambient temperature, but also on the residual moisture in the tubers themselves. The drying process can take a good 1-2 months.
Store dried Allium sativum
When the outer layers are really dry and rustle between fingers and the tuber looks shriveled, it can take its winter storage place.
- Braid can be stored whole
- Gradually cut off and use up the tubers
- the foliage can be cut off from loose tubers
- in paper bags or airtight containers
- nets are also suitable
- do not store in plastic bags
The ideal storage location and shelf life
The ideal storage place for dried garlic bulbs allows little or no light to penetrate them. Otherwise, the cloves may sprout early and become unusable for cooking. The room should also be dry, with humidity below 70%. Mold fungi have no chance to appear on the tuber. It has also been shown that the tubers have the best shelf life at 10 to 15 °C. If storage conditions meet all three points and if the tubers are airily packed or in an airy container as described above, they can be kept for up to one year.
Dry peeled garlic
There is also an option to dry peeled garlic. The moisture can be removed from it more quickly and, above all, completely. This makes it even easier to store the spicy plant. However, preparing a large harvest for this type of drying is a lot of work. Each tuber has to be cleaned, peeled and sliced.
- Dry in the oven at 70 °C top and bottom heat
- or in the dehydrator according to the operating instructions
- Duration depends on the thickness of the pieces
- can take several hours
- The drying process is complete when the garlic is brittle
Let Allium sativum cool down properly before collecting it in an airtight container and storing it in a dark, cool and dry place. This dried garlic can also be finely ground and used as a powder.