Step 1: This fall, purchase a head of your favorite garlic, or get one from a local farm. I used a head of organic garlic from my local grocery store. Peel the outermost layers and hit it with the heel of your hand until the cloves come apart. (Even better: watch this short video for an amazing tip you will use from here on in.) I planted my garlic in September.
Step 2: Choose a spot in your garden to plant your garlic. One by one, push each clove into the soil about an inch deep, with the point of the clove facing upward. Leave about 3 inches in between each clove you plant.
Step 3: Cover with soil, water, and wait. Each clove will make one head of garlic. In order for them to grow the soil needs to stay moist, so water as normal. To be honest, I did not water much throughout the winter and pretty much let nature take its course. You should however make sure the area stays covered and the cloves don’t become exposed. A little mulch will help. After a few weeks you will begin to see some green chutes emerge from the dirt:
Let the garlic “do its thing” over the winter. You will see another surge in the growth of the chutes once Spring begins, and you may see that some of the chutes start to turn brown and fall over. That’s good. You will know your garlic is ready once most of the shoots have turned brown. In other words, you garlic will look like one hot garlicky garden mess. One thing I learned about gardening is that we aren’t so different from what goes on in the dirt. You have more in common with that garlic than you think. See the picture above? That’s you, before you go out, all decked out and pretty. See that picture below? That’s you passed out after a rough night and a few shots of tequila:
Once your garlic looks like it’s had too much tequila, you’re in business.
Step 4: The moment of truth: once your garlic looks like crap in your garden (right around the first week of July,) it’s time to see how it’s been doing. Usually the thicker the chute, the bigger the head of garlic. You want to make sure you harvest at the right time. If you leave them in too long, the heads will crack and fall apart. Too short, and they won’t be fully developed. Timing is everything here. So, hold your breath and — very gently — begin to push the dirt away from one of your garlic heads:
Remember, your garlic is hungover so be gentle!! You can see that this one looked ready, which means they probably all were about done and it’s okay to begin to get them out of the ground. No matter how tempting it is, do NOT pull them out. Instead, using a shovel, get underneath the garlic head and lift it out from below. BE CAREFUL not to scrape the head of garlic or touch it with the shovel – it will bruise the garlic.
Once you start lifting them out of the ground make sure you do not put them in direct sunlight – they are vulnerable little things and will burn in the sun. Very carefully shake off any excess dirt (and worms), and place them in the shade.
You can see that they are all different sizes – some are nice and big and resemble what you buy in the grocery store, and others are a bit smaller, but they are all FRESH and HOME GROWN!
Step 5: Place the garlic as-is in a bowl in a dark, dry place where it will stay for 3-4 weeks until dry or “cured” (sunlight can change the flavor of garlic.) Once dried, you can cut off the tops (stems) and roots. To store your garlic, keep it in a cool dark place. You can store it in a dish, or a mesh bag. If you’re anything like me you’ll go through them faster than you can store them anyway! Be sure to set a bulb or two aside for next year so you can do it all over again. For my simple “Ooooh La La Garlic Bread” recipe and a “how-to” on roasting a head of garlic, click here.