Most of our Spanish Rosa garlic stalks were lying down on the ground today. Some of their leaves had died back, and they each had about four or five good leaves left. I have read that you want to harvest garlic before all the leaves are brown, because each leaf is a paper around the bulb, and they will store much better with several layers of the papery husk left on them.
This seemed like the right time to check them out, so I dug one up. It was gorgeous — nice and plump, with pinkish-purple papers:
So I kept digging up all the ones that looked ready, which was about 30 in all. The big ones I braided together to make ropes by which to hang them:
Kirk hung a hook and a small chain from the ceiling of the screened-in porch, and we tied our three garlic braids (about two dozen bulbs) to it. This isn't just for arts and crafts. When you pick garlic, you need to cure it by letting it air dry in a shady spot for several weeks until the leaves go brown and the papers are totally dry. Without the excess moisture, they should store well for several months. Then we brush the excess dirt off, trim back the roots, and cut a bulb off the rope whenever we need one throughout the fall and winter.
I made three braids of the biggest and best bulbs from this harvest. The small ones I put together and hung directly in the kitchen:
The smaller leaves were much easier to braid, but I have a feeling we'll use these for cooking long before they are fully cured. That's no problem at all — we'll just have to wash them off and they'll be ready to go! They'll taste the same whether the've been cured or not.
There is a lot more garlic out in the garden, but it's not quite ready to dig up yet. Next time I might try setting up the bulbs on a screen to dry before braiding them together — I'm wondering if drier leaves might be a little easier to work with. I think we're going to need to set up a whole area on the porch for garlic and herb drying, which is something we had not really considered until this afternoon.
Having such a bounty of garlic definitely helps take some of the sting out of our recent orchard problems. It's nice when everything goes right!