I use a lot of garlic. There is nothing like that fragrant allium for flavoring all kinds of dishes, from meats and pastas to vegetables of every sort. Very easy to grow, it’s planted in the late fall and harvested in the summer. Not bothered by pests, there is nothing much to it, really. Unless, of course you forget all about it. I had so much garlic from the previous year that I forgotten about the garlic patch until it made itself know to me by sprouting again last September as I was putting my garden to bed. Uh-oh. September is not the time to harvest garlic. So I left them. They withered and died and sprouted again the next spring, but this time instead of single stalks from individual cloves, I had many many sprouts from whole heads of garlic. Bushes of garlic. This year I determined to harvest them at the right time. Plus I was out of garlic.
Garlic should be picked when the stalks are still green but beginning to brown. It’s not rocket science, but it does need to be done. If you pick it too early, the paper is hard and difficult to peel, and the heads won’t be fully formed. Too late and you risk the bulbs separating, the paper will be too thin and then they won’t store well. July is a good time to do it. Although it’s tempting to grab those sturdy stalks and yank, unless you loosen the ground first they will break and then you’ll be digging around with your trowel and risk damaging the bulb. I dig a big scoop out of the dirt in front of the garlic, and then bend it toward the loosened earth until it comes free. Because I had left mine so long in the ground and the bulbs had sprouted close together, most of the garlic was very small. Perfect for a garlic braid! I made sure to pick every one; the ones I get next year will be the ones I plant this fall!
Garlic is excellent fresh, but it must be cured in order to keep. This is best done out of the sun, in a cool, well ventilated area, and takes a few weeks until the papery stalks dry. Leave the stalks on for this, and cut them only when you transfer the cured garlic to its storage area. I keep mine in a basket in our cool basement. Keep it away from moisture unless you want it to sprout in the basket.
Last night we had beet greens braised with garlic cloves. The fresh cloves are much milder than the cured. It was really delicious and a good way to get in those healthy greens.
SIMPLE GARLICY GREENS
1 large bunch of beet greens, or whatever hearty green you have to hand, collard, mustard, kale…
1 head of garlic, preferably fresh
1 cup of flavorful broth, vegetable, or chicken
Wash and chop the greens and add them to a large stock pot. (add as much as will fit. They cook down to nothing) Peel and crush, not chop, the cloves of 1 head of garlic. Add to the greens and pour the broth over. Cover and simmer 20 min, longer for sturdier greens. Enjoy!