Garlic, vindicated

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We harvested our garlic a couple of weeks ago–the culmination of an experiment of sorts. We’ve grown garlic for about five years, always just planting whatever cloves we happened to have or could get at the store. Buying garlic out of a seed catalog seemed like an extravagence (it’s more expensive than grocery store garlic). But, when we kept harvesting tiny heads, we started to suspect it might be worthwhile.

Then came our CSA to the rescue. In our shares we’d get these huge fat heads, and we put them aside for planting rather than eating. The farm grows a stiffneck variety and they have amazing results with it. These became our seed stock. (To plant garlic, you just break up a head into cloves and push these into the soil. Do that at Halloween, and each clove will form a head by Independence Day.)

The plants looked great this spring and we had high hopes. Sure enough, when July 4 rolled around, we dug up our best-looking garlic harvest ever.

How exciting! These should take us through to next summer.

We also saved some "bulbiles"–these are the seeds that form inside the garlic plant’s flower. Normally you cut off the tall flower stalk, called the "scape," to encourage bigger heads to form. But we let some of them go, and now we have tons of the bulbiles, which look like tiny garlic cloves. Turning these into full-grown garlic heads will take a couple of years and several stages, but we’re going to try it.

All in all, a very successful crop. A gardener needs some of those. (If only we could say the same for our broccoli…).

Anyone else grow garlic this year? How’d it turn out?

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