As I age, I am growing to appreciate the perpetual food plants in my garden. By this I mean the food plants that either set their own seeds (tomatillos and kale are good for this), produce seed that is easy to gather, store and replant (tomatoes and lettuce fall into this category) or produce a tuber or bulb that can be replanted over and over (think potatoes). Garlic produces a bulb that can be harvested in the spring, then dried and replanted as individual cloves in the autumn. I am eating garlic now that was grown from bulbs I was gifted a decade ago.
My garlic patch is only 12’x12’. In that space I plant one
hundred cloves of garlic each October. By November, tiny spikes emerge only to be covered by a thick blanket of snow. In the spring, as soon as the soil warms, those spikes reemerge and grow into tall, graceful plants that produce the most beautiful scapes. The scapes must be cut if you want your garlic bulbs to grow large but never fear. They are not wasted. Scapes can be pickled, stir fried, sautéed or eaten slivered in spring salads. The taste is a bit more mild than garlic and absolutely delicious. Shortly after the scapes are harvested the green tops of the garlic turn yellow and brown, the
sign the garlic is ready for harvest.
I loosen the soil around each bulb with my Super Garden Fork and then pull up each bulb. I knock off as much mud soil as I can then set the bulbs to dry in the sun. They cure for a few weeks (don’t let them get wet!) and then I cut off the tops leaving a 3” neck. Now they are ready to store.
The largest, most perfect bulbs are set aside for
fall planting. Each bulb produces about 6 good cloves so I save about 18 of my one hundred bulbs. I leave a large bowl of garlic right in my kitchen. Another bunch goes into a dark, cool closet upstairs. The rest goes in the dehydrator. I chop it small then dry until good and crispy. Next, I give the pieces a whirl in my Vitamix until I have a fine powder. That gets stored with an oxygen absorber packet in a Mason jar.
This may sound like a lot of work but it fits in with the rhythm of the seasons and no a single job is at all difficult. In the spring, the garlic powder is a welcome addition to my pantry as the garlic I have stored is getting older and starting to sprout.
Today I have made up a small bag of garlic bulbs for each of my adult children. When the weather cools I will help each plant their own garlic patch. Someday, my grandchildren will harvest their perpetual garlic from this gift.