This year’s harvest of garlic outperformed last year’s paltry crop in ways that aren’t really comparable. We might have hoped this year’s bulbs would be a touch larger than they were, but, really, I’m still quite pleased. Last year’s harvest was so abysmal and small that we didn’t even eat them. The effort of peeling the cloves wasn’t worth mincing such little things, so we just kind of let them sit in a bin in the garage until we disposed of them furtively and with no small amount of hope for bulbs growing away under layers and layers of mulch.
This year, then, marks the first year that we’ve pulled up garlic, admired the size of some of the bulbs while side-eyeing others, stared in befuddlement at the shape of a few, and then asked, “Now what?”
The answer to “now what?” is that garlic needs a place to dry or cure that is out of the sunlight (sunlight changes the flavor) with sufficient air circulation to allow the bulbs to dry out a little to prepare them for storage. Unfortunately, we are not ripe with such places. Our house is small, and our garden shed was turned into a chicken coop (related note: I hope to have both a garden shed AND a chicken coop next year, such luxury!). I suggested under the eaves of the house, and my husband looked at me like I was nuts. The garage was out because it’s a stifling inferno in the July heat of Kansas. No dice.
So, I turned to his fairy-tale-esque covering over his homemade cob oven and asked, “What about this?”
And it worked. Maybe not as well as we liked, but it worked! We hung a removable piece of scrap wood over the front so that my husband could still use the oven to bake bread, and we tied bunches of garlic together and hung them in strands from the wood. It’s a little crowded, but it’s out of direct sunlight almost the entire day. Next year we may adjust how we hang them, e.g., lengthwise instead, or perhaps find a better alternative.
This year, though, we’re pleased to be drying garlic for the months after the farmer’s market stops selling them. The garlic you can grow or buy from a farmer is infinitely superior to whatever you can purchase in a grocery store. My mom once confessed that she never grew garlic because it was just so cheap at the store, but nothing beats the taste of homegrown garlic (or the size of the cloves!). I don’t think our yield is quite enough to get us through the long months without needing to purchase at the grocery store, so, of course, next year, I’m planting more!