Our 4th annual garlic harvest

Spring... it's that wondrous time of year when everything seems possible and exciting and the to-do list is miles long with fabulous plans. And then suddenly it's flipping November and you haven't made a dent in The List. Right now I'm playing mega catch up!

So yup, it's already the end November - garlic harvest time!!! Except that we actually harvested a fortnight ago. The whole eastern part of Australia had a warmer and wetter spring than usual this year so we were faced with the prospect of harvesting earlier than we have for the past four years (and before the heads had a chance to fully mature and dry in the ground) or risk the whole harvest rotting in the ground... we played it safe.

Growing garlic is dead easy. It's definitely one of those seems-much-more-impressive-than-it-really-is kind of plants. One head of garlic is broken up into individual cloves and planted separately, and each clove will then become a new head of garlic. Plant the pointy end up, leaving the loose skin on (although it truly doesn't matter too much on either front - it's amazing how a plant will find a way to grow if given half a chance). Pop them into the ground to about the depth of your thumb... let the size of the clove be your guide - as with all seeds or bulbs, it's best to plant them about the depth of the size they are (a 2cm clove goes in 2cm deep, etc).

The earlier in autumn you can get the garlic into the ground, the bigger the heads come harvest time but obviously when you plant will be influenced by what you still have in the ground from summer. We plant around the autumn solstice, after the tomatoes and other late summer veg are done for the year. 

When the plants brown and die back in mid-spring you should stop watering them and (ideally) harvest after approximately two dry weeks in the ground. Of course if it rains as much as this year that messes things up a little, so adjust accordingly (and consult all your other garlic-growing friends to find out what they're doing - instagram was a-buzz with advice and commiserations this year). We harvested before the foliage had died back and browned off because of the weather forecast, and I think it was the right call.

Garlic needs a proper cold winter in order to form good sized bulbs which might explain why ours were a bit smaller this year (climate change - ugh). We lost a few bulbs to the wet before harvesting, but did manage to harvest over a hundred that I think will cure well. 

So that's our family's 4th annual garlic harvest done for another year! 

{Oh and as I was asked on instagram a few weeks ago, I thought it might be worth mentioning how we keep the garlic for the year ahead - we save approximately half to use fresh all year and some to replant next year, stored in the shed which is very cold all winter and coolish in the summer; and with the other half we freeze the bare cloves whole and make sriarcha using a recipe from It's All Good (definitely one of my favourite cookbooks) but I've also just discovered this version from My Darling Lemon Thyme}