If you are into growing food – garlic is a must have in the garden. Find how to plant, grow, harvest, store and use garlic. All about the super food, garlic. Garlic is a crop that is easily grown and goes a long way in the kitchen. So many dishes just taste better with garlic. Some people love garlic more than others, but it’s good for everyone. Good quality garlic is expensive, so it’s definitely worth growing your own.
What garlic varieties to grow
There are many garlic varieties for different climates. At the store you will mostly get the softneck garlic (artichoke), in our cold climate we grow the hardneck garlic, with the hard stalk in the middle. If you can grow all types of garlic or need to choose your special one, here is a great tool: Choosing Your Garlic Favorites
Russian Red is the varieties we grow. It is a great garlic for cold climate growers. This year I added a variety called Music as well. Since I get the “seeds” from a local farmers market, I already know this garlic will grow well in our climate. I’m not always so sure about the variety though.
If you are new to growing garlic, we would encourage you to get some garlic locally that you really like. You can eat some and plant some of the biggest and healthiest cloves in your garden. And there you have it, your favorite variety fresh from your garden.
How to plant garlic
In our Zone 3 garden here in Alberta, we plant garlic outdoors in September, before the weather changes to cold and rainy. The warmer your climate, the later you can plant garlic.
For planting separate the bulbs carefully so that you do not disturb the cloves. The upper and lower growing points still need to be intact.
We plant garlic 6-8 inch apart in every direction. In our cold climate we plant garlic a little deeper, about 2-3 inch pointing side up. Before winter we also mulch the soil with compost or wood chips.
Garlic can also be grown from bulbils, find helpful tips on that here. The bulbils will take 3 years to become a full size garlic.
Harvesting garlic scapes
The hardneck garlic always produces lots of garlic scapes. Those are a little curly stems that grows from the center of the plant. It will finally produce a flower and go to seeds.
To ensure good size garlic you should harvest the garlic scapes and prune the leaves back a little. The best time to do this is before the bulb starts to open or the stem gets woody. Harvest them when they are still green and soft.
Scapes are a great replacement for garlic in summer recipes. They also make great Garlic Scape pesto (See our favorite recipes below). In fact the garlic scapes are one of the reasons we like to grow our own garlic.
Garlic is ready when the lower 4 leaves have yellowed and dried and the upper are still green. If you harvest too early, the skin will be very thick and your garlic will have a hard time to dry and store well. If harvested too late, the cloves might split open.
If needed loosen the soil with a fork in order to not to disturb the bulb, instead of just pulling the garlic on the stem.
After harvesting it is important to cure (dry) the garlic before replanting or storing it. Simple hang or lay out the garlic in a airy place so the leaves can dry out. After that cut the stem leaving about an inch and prune the roots back. Your garlic is ready.
For storage choose healthy dry garlic, the bigger the cloves the better. If the garlic isn’t dry it can get mold or start to sprout. So make sure to cure garlic first.
We store garlic in a closed cardboard box – it’s dark and dry in there with some air circulation. The box is stored in the basement (not cold room), where it is a bit cooler and darker than upstairs in the house.
I wrote a whole post about how to store garlic a while back.
Garlic is super yummy and very healthy as well. Read more about the medicinal properties of garlic. Fermented, raw, or cooked, garlic makes everything more spicy. Here are some of our favorite recipes as well as from our homesteading friends (you might want to grow more garlic?).
Make your own health remedies
We love garlic in many recipes, please share your favorite in a comment.
Plant based garlic scape pesto recipe
Here is a whole food, plant based recipe for garlic scape pesto.
1 cup chopped garlic scapes
1/2 cup walnuts
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
Combine everything in a food possessor and process till the pesto is creamy.
To store place a plastic wrap right on top of the pesto, this way it will not turn brown.
Preserving garlic scapes
We use the deep freezer to preserve the tasty summer harvest of garlic scapes. Finally chopped for pesto, or cut for stir-fry and soups, or even the ready made pesto can all be frozen.