Howdy fellow simple gardeners! It’s Garlic Time!! Today we are going to talk about how to cure garlic.
You remember way last fall when you planted those cloves in the ground and you let it sleep all winter under a bed of mulch? Then in spring, you watched it break through the ground patiently waiting for that time when you got to harvest your bounty?
Well, that time has arrived and there are a few steps you need to take before you can begin using those wonderful heads of garlic.
What’s needs to be done first for garlic?
Step #1. How to easily Harvest your Garlic.
Before we can talk about how to cure garlic you first need to harvest it. But before you do, there are a few things you need to know. Your garlic has been in the ground for 3 almost 4 seasons, so it’s not going to come out of the ground easily. Garlic cannot be picked; it needs to be dug up.
Grab yourself a shovel, not a handheld one…a shovel, like this one.
There is a trick to digging up garlic and if you want undamaged garlic heads you will want to be careful with this step.
It is very important to place the shovel so you do not pierce the garlic. Pierced garlic is damaged garlic so be careful here. Place your shovel out far enough from where you believe the garlic to be. I would overcompensate here just a bit to be sure you are out far enough. I suggest starting at 8 inches out from the base of the plant.
The head will be deep in the ground so you need to go straight down for a good 8 inches at least. Then you can lift up the shovel and the garlic should come with it. Just let the garlic lay where it is as you continue to dig up all the heads you have planted.
Step #2. Cleaning off your Garlic
Once you have all your garlic out, take your hands and remove the clumps of dirt from the heads and roots, but don’t go crazy here. You want to keep some of the dirt on so you don’t accidentally remove the skin before it’s dry. It is important to keep the leaves and roots intact for better drying of the heads.
Step #3. Drying your Garlic
The first step is to give it an initial dry. I like to lay mine out flat for a few days making sure it is in a single layer. Keep it outside for better airflow to help speed up drying but out of the direct heat of the sun. This will ensure better air circulation where it is warm, 80 degrees is good.
I use a plastic tray for mine but an old window screen works great too. You can also use an old cooling rack from your kitchen like this one. The goal here is to have as much airflow as you can to speed things up on drying out the dirt on the garlic.
Tip: Make sure to bring your garlic in at night so it does not get wet from the dew. For this reason, a tray works great for moving things quickly and easily.
Step #4. Remove the Rest of the Dirt and Soil from your Garlic
After a few days of drying, you can remove more of the soil, but again don’t go crazy with the skin. Just use your hands to gently break the dirt from the roots and the outside of the head.
Tip: Love garlic but not the smell? Use gloves when cleaning and tying up your garlic. Gloves like these are so nice to have around the homestead and are easy to wear. Thin and snug they are a great tool to always have around.
Step #5. How to Cure Garlic the Final Step
Once the dirt is removed you need to gather your garlic into small bunches. By bunching your garlic together you can final dry much easier and more quickly.
I find bunches of 2-4 work the best. You can braid the leaves together or use twine and simply tie the leaves together. Once you have all of your garlic combined in small bunches you will want to hang things up for the final drying stage.
Find a place to hang your garlic up and out of the way where it will be safe from damage. Remember for the garlic to dry you need good air circulation so try not to gather too many bunches together in a tight space.
Since I have so much garlic every year, Hubs made me this garlic hanger to use out in the barn. Just a board with a bunch of screws in it, low cost and works perfectly.
Once done we could hang it up in the barn and out of the way of critters or other possibilities of damage to the garlic heads.
I prefer to hang my garlic in the barn, but a garage will work or a shed if it’s dry and not damp. If you only have a few bulbs you can also hang inside your home but be prepared for a morning greeting of garlic smells with your coffee.
If you don’t have enough air circulation you can use fans to help. Your goal is to dry the skins while keeping the moisture of the bulbs.
About two weeks should be good, but longer may be needed. To know if your garlic is dry check the bulbs to see if they are dry and watch the leaves for browning.
After a few weeks, your garlic will be ready to use! Oh, and on the plus side, your barn will smell like an Italian Bistro!
Step #6. Prepare Garlic
Once your garlic is dry, remove the last of the dirt and outer skin. Use scissors to remove the stems and the roots. I like to store my garlic heads in these handy mesh bags.
If you find you have more garlic than you can use, you can try preserving peeled garlic cloves in vinegar water. My method is super easy to do. If you have never canned garlic you can read how to do it here. How To Preserve Your Garlic.
Once canned garlic will last in your refrigerator for up to a year.
If you are new to gardening, garlic is the perfect way to get your feet wet. The pungent aroma is a natural defense against pests and microorganisms. Once you plant your garlic cloves and mulch your plants you can let the garlic to its thing.
Yes, it pretty much does grow itself and once you know how to cure garlic you are well on your way to a pantry stocked with this wonderful vegetable.