Growing garlic needs time and a lot of space, but not too much input after the initial planting, so does it make it all worth it?
We think that garlic is one of the nations favourite herbs. You should be able to grow enough garlic for the whole family for a year. You can eat it when it is young and still scapes. We also harvest once it is ready to be eaten as individual cloves of garlic. If you can cure them correctly in a well aired dry area, you can also eat them all year round. We hope to show you ways to take them to the next level with a cold smoke generator, making them perfect additions to any Christmas hamper!
Growing Garlic in the UK
Whilst garlic is not hard to grow it is unusual in that it will take almost a year to harvest. So space and patience are key to a successful crop. You will find that it is a perfect crop to over winter as each new frost brings the chance to crack the cloves and increase your yield. However, free draining soil is the main way to gain a good harvest of garlic. Water logged beds will relate to nothings showing for your months of waiting. So let’s break this down a bit more!
- Prepare the ground by double digging. You will need good drainage and his method ensures that excess water can drain away, rather than the cloves sitting in it. Soggy cloves will make for rot and not a great growing environment.
- Layout the cloves on top of the bed. Making sure that each clove is two bulbs distance apart. Then use a dibber to push a hole next to it, letting it fall into the hole. Then remove the dibber and the hole closes over the garlic clove.
- We then lay holly on the top as we have a stray cat who likes to poop. Other than the occasional removal of weeds you will now need to wait. If you plant the garlic in October you will start to see shoots around January.
- Wait until around June time to harvest.
How to Harvest your Garlic Bulbs
- Once the stalks are starting to turn brown, maybe the lower third has. Then you will be able to dig a test bulb up. Go carefully as a fork through a bulb will mean it would spoil instead of drying. The root system will be very good so you can easily split the bulb without meaning to.
- With a garden fork you can lift the bulb, you may find it is not yet ready, in which case gently put it back or eat it as a scape. Basically you can chop and fry it with onions in any sauce or stew as you would do with any other allium.
- If the bulb is ready you can gently lift it out. so to do this dig around it to loosen the soil. Make sure you don’t fork any other bulbs in doing this, so work from one side across the bed. Be careful to only take when they are ready, but do not pull on the stalk at all as it will come away and then you cannot store it as easily.
- Dust it off to clear any loose dirt. A gentle shake goes a long way to help here. As does waiting until you have had a few dry days in a row before digging them up.
- Now you are ready to cure them! You can eat them direct from the ground as well, but just don’t be tempted to leave them in the ground on the off chance you will want fresh garlic in a weeks time. They will quickly get annoyed if heavy rains start and they are already fully formed.
Curing your Garlic
You will want to start this process as soon as the bulbs have come out of the ground. This is to remove the chance of rot or mold developing.
- Make sure all soil is removed, without using water! We don’t want to introduce more moisture as we are looking to remove as much as possible.
- When we harvested the bulbs we took so much effort to keep the stalks attached, now we will see why. You can either hang them on a special slotted bench or you can plait them with the stalks!
- Our preferred method is to plait them together. Start with three bulbs and stalks, plait one over the next and then include a new bulb.t it so that you add an extra bulb regularly to keep the plait going, but to avoid the garlic bulbs being too close together.
- You can then hang them in a dry and well aired place. Direct sunlight will not have a good affect on the flavour and should be avoided.
- 3-4 weeks should be enough time to dry the stalks out as well as the bulbs, not too much just enough for storage. You are now ready to cut the stalks off if you like, or keep the garlic in their plaits.
Storing to grow again
If you are thinking about getting more from your garlic, then you store them slightly differently. You will want to make sure that they are stored in a way so as not to dry them out as much. We use a hessian sack in a dark cool corner of the potting shed.
When you decide which bulbs to choose, go for the fattest ones. Even better is if they have double layers of cloves! This is why you would not chose to grow cloves from the supermarket, as these have been dried and cured for eating not growing. They will grow, don’t get me wrong but you will get less of a crop. Seeing how long garlic takes to grow, you do want a good return on your investment.
Using a Cold Smoke Generator
We love the smokey flavours that cold smoking gives and hope that you will find the perfect combination for yourselves. Smoke garlic bulbs are a great addition to any food lovers pantry and it really gives your dishes that extra something.
Why Smoke Garlic?
It is all about the flavour – kind of sweeter, still garlic but less of an allium taste. Almost as if the harsh stringent flavour has had the edge taken off it. You will get the aroma of the smoke as well. This means that the smoke taste is as strong as the garlic taste.
Cold smoking the garlic will not affect how long it lasts. As long as you have cured it first. You can smoke it fresh and then you will be looking at four weeks stored in a cool dark place. Or just one week if you hot smoke the garlic, and then stored in the fridge. Zip Lock Bag! If you are storing in the fridge keep that gorgeous scent away from all other fridge foods!
Laying out the Cold Smoke Generator
We put the bulbs in whole. You chop the stalks off after the curing period. Now you need to sort of smoosh them down a bit to allow the smoke to penetrate. Don’t crush all of the papery outer leaves but just get a route in.
We use a dedicated Smoker that we have made, but one like the box above is perfectly fine. You will then need a Cold Smoking Starter Kit/Gift Set with the smoker in as well as a variety of wood dusts.
If you go for oak wood in the cold smoker you are pretty much promised a strong aroma and taste. Not enough to quite over power the garlic but enough to subdue it. If you went for cherry or apple wood instead you would have a much more gentle flavour develop.
You fill the maze with the wood dust and make sure that there is no overlap. So that the route of the burn will not be shortened. Then you light the tealight and place into the maze. Give it like two minutes until teh wood is smoking and then remove the tealight.
Then place it all into the smoker.
We use the garlic to pack out the smoker. This makes it full and worth starting. Once we have cheese and nuts as well as trays of rock salt a few garlic cloves fit in nicely. This means we can use what we smoke as we smoke it. The flavours stay stronger and the garlic is much more fresh.
We will be pickling some garlic cloves in the near future as well. So if you would like to follow our adventures with our homegrown herb garden please do subscribe!
For more information on busting those gardening terms and breaking through the gardeners jargon check out this article.