Back in February we bought three garlic bulbs for £5 at Seedy Sunday in Brighton. My hubby did a great job of planting them, watering them and working out when they were ready to harvest. We also had a little assistance from the garlic farm cook book*, which tells you about the different types of garlic, when to grow them, when to harvest and how to store them once harvested as well as providing some recipes using the garlic.
The two types of garlic
There are lots of varieties of garlic, but they all fall into one of two categories – hardneck and softneck. The softneck ones have floppy stalks and the hardneck ones are stiff.
How to store homegrown garlic
A great way to store homegrown garlic is to hang it in your kitchen. As the softneck garlic has flexible stalks you can plait it. There is a technique to plaiting garlic and you can find out how to plait it here: how to braid garlic
How to tie up hardneck garlic
The hardneck garlic can’t be plaited. You need to use string to tie them up using a technique called grapping. You tie a knot around one neck to start off with. Then you tie two together and wrap the string round and so on (it explains the technique much better in the book!)
Once you have tied several of them together, you wrap the string round close together at first and the further apart as you go up the stalk. At the top you tie it off and make a loop of string to hang your garlic up with!
There is a bit of hair on the bottom of the garlic which the book advises you to chop off like this:
Where to hang garlic
The best place to dry and store garlic is hanging in a light area, as if you put it in the dark it will start to sprout. You might notice from the picture that the hardneck garlic has round things at the top of the stems. These are like mini bulbs of garlic. Apparently if we had chopped them off when they had first formed we would have had much bigger cloves of garlic, but we can use them as mini bulbs of garlic anyway and now we know for next year.
My hubby planted these garlic bulbs back in March/ April time I think, but September/ October is the time to plant the next lot of garlic.
Our garlic harvest totalled 24 bulbs of garlic plus 10 garlic top bulbs from 3 original bulbs. I’m not sure that the original bulbs we bought were organic, they were British though and they were grown in organic compost without the use of pesticides or fertlisers. 3 bulbs of organic garlic currently cost around 90p in Sainsburys (and non-organic garlic is a similar price) so we would have spent around £10 (counting the 10 smaller bulbs as 3 larger ones). We saved ourselves around £5 which isn’t huge bucks, but we have the pleasure of fresh homegrown garlic with low food miles and full control over the growing process. Obviously the more we grow the more savings we will make and although it isn’t big bucks, when the saving are combined with other foods we are growing at the same time it all adds up!