Earlier this spring, R got some garlic sprigs from a farmer co-worker friend of ours here in Utah. We made a small bed in our front yard (safely away from Loki), and planted 13 little cloves. This has been strictly a learning experience; we actually hadn’t done much research about growing garlic until after the cloves had been in the ground for awhile. After a couple of months, 11 of the 13 cloves we had planted sprouted. Another month later, they had grown almost a foot tall, and started to flower. Garlic curls at the ends where the flower bud is growing, and they looked like cute little curly q’s out of a Dr Seuss book.
Those little flower bud ends are called scapes, and you’re supposed to cut them off so the plant uses that energy to make the garlic bulb underground bigger, instead of using it for the flower. Scapes are edible, have a very mild garlic flavor, and a little bit of sweetness to them. So R snipped all the of the scapes off (we had them with dinner that night), and harvested a couple of the bulbs to see how they were looking.
The bulbs were small, but looked and smelled strongly of garlic. We tried peeling one to have with dinner, which turns out to be more of a challenge than expected, since you’re supposed to dry them first. So we tied the others up to hang to dry outside in the shade. We left the remaining plants in the ground for another week or so, before we harvested those too.
Some of the bulbs are bigger than others, and quite a few of them have a purple tint to them. We washed them, cut the greens off, and set the bulbs on a rack to dry. We left the roots on for now, but at some point we will remove those as well. The rest of the plant, the greens, we will add to our mulch/compost, which will provide more nutrients and good “green compost” for our future soil. The scapes and actual garlic bulbs are what we’ll be going for in the future for not only our own personal use, but also to sell at farmer’s markets.
We learned a lot just from these 11 little garlic sprouts. We probably didn’t water it enough at times, and it’s not ideal to plant them in the spring. Garlic is more of a fall planting crop. We will plant some more this fall out in CO, then really let it thrive for as long as it needs. The reason our bulbs now are smaller than they could have been is they didn’t have enough time to spread their little roots. Garlic is meant to grow over the winter, and not get harvested until nearly a year later.
Living and learning!