“It would be a sad world without garlic,” says my friend Johno Prascak. The Pittsburgh artist shares my obsession with garlic from the garden.
This is the perfect time to plant.
The first step is to start with the right garlic. It needs to be hardy for our areas, so farmer’s markets, local nurseries and garlic farms will well you the right thing. Most of the grocery store garlic isn’t hardy and is treated to retard sprouting.
I know for sure Hahn Nursery and Chapon’s Greenhouse has garlic for sale. But you’re favorite nursery might too.
Bob Zimmerman from Bobba-Mike’s Gourmet Garlic Farm in Ohio told me he has lots of ‘Music’ left. That’s my favorite variety, I’ve been ordering from Bob for over 15 years. The folks at Enon Valley Garlic have plenty of garlic left to order too. We’ve also become friends and they sell locally at the Sewickley, Ellwood City and Chippewa farmer’s markets.
Once you have the right garlic, separate the head into cloves. Plant the biggest cloves three inches deep, six inches apart in good soil. I save the smaller cloves for the kitchen.In my garden, I mulch the bed with straw. Now all we have to do is wait until spring. Garlic growers get four harvests, not just one.
The first happens early in the spring when the greens sprout. They can be harvested lightly, remember the greens provide energy for the bulbs. But those early fat little sprouts sharing their show with the crocus signal the start of the season are delicious.
In early June a seed head called a scape will emerge. It must be removed so the bulb can reach its potential. They are a delicacy, I use them for pesto or grill them.
I leave some of those scapes in the garden. Even though they are no longer attached to the plant, the seed head will continue to swell and grow little bulbets that are a clone of the bulb.
When more than 50 percent of the greens turn brown in July it’s time to harvest the bulbs. They can be pulled out or gently coaxed with a garden fork. If you’re growing bulbs to store all winter they will need to be cured in a warm dry place for three weeks. Garlic lasts longer if the stalks are left attached.
There’s nothing like garlic from the garden, the fresh stuff is filled with oils that will make any recipe special. I even know a gardener who eats raw cloves out in his garden, guess who?