How and When to Harvest Garlic
Homegrown garlic – pungent and sharp and oh so flavorful! Much more powerful than it’s store-bought counterpart, it adds a strong, unmistakable taste to many of our favorite recipes. I recently harvested my container-grown garlic and made a delicious garlic rosemary chicken with garlic roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts that received rave reviews from my family!
Garlic couldn’t be easier to grow – I like to call it a a “plant it and forget it crop”. It is usually planted in the fall, just before the first frost date of the winter, and it grows for about 6 months, with little care required. Check out my previous blog post on planting garlic so you know just how to get yours planted when the time is right.
It’s very important to know when to harvest garlic, because if you harvest it too soon, your bulbs will be tiny, and if you harvest it too late, your bulbs will split, and not have as much flavor.
In a cold winter climate, with a period of winter dormancy, the best time to harvest garlic is in the summer, June- August. Here in Southern California, where the weather is warm, I typically don’t get huge garlic bulbs, because garlic needs a period of cold weather to send it into dormancy and grow those large bulbs. I harvest small bulbs in early spring. I’m OK with these small bulbs, they still pack a flavor punch, and any harvest from my garden beats buying it at the grocery store!
When to harvest garlic
The easiest way to tell that a garlic harvest is imminent is when the stalks, are 1/3 brown. Brown stalks don’t mean garlic is dead, it’s just a sign that your garlic will be ready to harvest soon.
At this point, check the garlic to see if is large enough to harvest. With your garlic still in the ground, simply loosen the soil around your garlic bulb with your fingers, (easy to do if you are growing garlic in a container) stick your finger into the soil and feel the bulb. If they are large enough to your liking, it’s time to harvest! If they are too small, leave in the ground to grow some more.
Keep an eye on your garlic leaves over the next few weeks as they continue to grow. Once the leaves are 2/3 brown, harvest your garlic no matter what the size. If garlic is left in the ground to long, the bulb may split or rot, and not be as tasty.
How to harvest garlic – 3 tips
Tip #1 – dig don’t pull
When harvesting garlic, dig it, don’t pull it out of the ground so the stalks don’t break off. If you are growing in a container, your soil will be nice and loose, so this will be simple!
Tip #2 – be gentle
Fresh garlic will cut and bruise easily – dig gently and carefully. If you are growing in a container, you may be able to dig down into the loose soil with your hands, and lift up your each bulb from underneath.
If you are growing garlic in the ground, dig gently with a trowel around and under your garlic and lift up each bulb individually.
Tip #3 – get garlic out of the sun
Freshly harvested garlic will burn quickly in the sun, so get it into a shady spot as soon as possible. Fresh garlic can be used right away in your favorite recipes, or it can be preserved for later use. To preserve it, lay it (unwashed) on a tray and put in a location out of direct sunlight to cure for about two weeks. Once garlic is dry, it will last for several months.
Garlic can also be grown in the summer months and harvested in the fall. However, keep in mind that the cloves may not be very big because it won’t have that period of cold weather to send it into dormancy.
Comment below – let me know when you are harvesting your garlic and what you’ll be making with it!