How To Harvest Garlic

How To Harvest Garlic

On Cape Cod the garlic that was planted last fall is usually ready to harvest at the end of June or the beginning of July. Here is how to harvest, cure and clean your garlic crop…plus some suggestions for what to do with the space where the garlic crop grew.

You will know that the garlic is ready to harvest when the tops of the leaves start dying back and become brown and gold.

When your garlic starts to look like this, it’s time to harvest.

Take a garden fork or shovel into the garden and put it about four inches away from your garlic plants. Push the tool into the ground and lever the garlic up, loosening the soil enough. Hold the garlic stems close to the ground and gently pull the heads out of the soil. Shake off the dirt gently.

Dan is pulling the garlic out after loosening the ground with the garden fork.

Lay the garlic plants out on the ground or in a cart or wheelbarrow to dry off for a couple of hours.

These are fresh-from-the-ground garlic plants.

After the soil on the harvested plants is dry, shake it off a bit and group the plants in bunches of twelve to sixteen plants, so you can tie them into bundles.

These bunches of garlic have been tied so that they can be hung under cover to cure.

Hang your bundles of garlic, heads down, in a shed, garage or under a covered porch. The garlic should hang here for two or three weeks to cure. If it’s in a shed or garage, be sure to open the windows so that there is good air circulation. Note that curing garlic does indeed smell like garlic, so your shed or garage might smell like a pizzeria for the duration.

This is garlic hanging in a shed, curing for two or three weeks.

After a the drying period, take the garlic down and cut the heads off of the stalks.

This is how the heads look when they’ve been cut off of the stalks. At this point, you’ll cut off the roots with a pair of pruners or a knife, and brush the dirt off with a stiff brush.
After the roots are cut off and the outside is brushed, the heads are ready to store.

Some of your cleaned garlic can be stored in a cool place such as a basement or cool closet. Some can be put in the refrigerator. If you grow as much garlic as you see here, a good way to preserve it is to slice off the root end, place them on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet, and roast at 375° until the head is soft. After the garlic cools, squeeze the roasted cloves out onto waxed paper and freeze. Once this roasted garlic is frozen, put it in a plastic bag. You can remove the amount of garlic necessary for a recipe as needed.

In the space where the garlic grew, plant new crops of carrots, kale, lettuce, arugula, bok choy, mustard greens, chard or cilantro. These can be sown anytime from mid-July through August for harvesting in October. The kale, carrots and chard will last through several frosts and on the Cape you can harvest through December.

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