July is garlic month.
I planted mine in early March, and I’d anticipated it having a longer growing time, but the leaves started to discolour a few weeks ago (I attributed it to too much rain/watering) and then last week the tall stalks started falling over in the same style as onions.
Unlike onions, garlic doesn’t push up out of the soil, so watching the leaves is the only way to judge their readiness.
There are two main varieties of garlic – hard neck and soft neck. The ‘neck’ here is the stem which is stiff or pliable respectively.
When ready for harvesting, hard neck garlic is ready to go when the bottom two or three leaves start to go a yellowy-brown. At this stage it’s advisable to dig up a test garlic to see if it is fully developed. If it is, harvest away. If not, wait till the discolouration of the leaves is more pronounced and then test again.
Soft neck varieties are less subtle and flop over, announcing they’re done growing.
To harvest either variety, dig around the garlic prior to lifting so they come out easily.
You can leave the garlic to dry in rows in the sun on a rack or mesh so their off the ground and air can circulate. Best not to leave them for more than a day though. Then they’ll need to be brought inside, and dried in a cool dark place for a couple of weeks till the leaves dry out completely. After that cut off the necks and roots and store them in a cool spot with good air flow. Mesh bags are ideal for storing them. Or they can be braided into strings of garlic and hung (I might give that a go when they’re ready).
Mine are soft necks. They were smallish upon harvest, but the all look healthy and unblighted.
The planting cloves were another purchase from Mr Middleton on Mary Street, Dublin.
As my harvest was quite small in number (about 20 bulbs), I won’t be conserving any for planting in the winter, much as I like the idea of starting a garlic family tree in my Ballyer backyard.
I left my shallots to dry under a coldframe (separated and elevated off the ground) for about three weeks, until the leaves were brown and crackling, and the skin around the bulb falling away easily
So yesterday I trimmed back the stalks, leaving an inch at the top, trimmed away any remaining roots and put them in net bags I’ve been saving from shop-bought fruits. I’m storing them in a cool ventilated cupboard.
They should store for several months, if they’re kept cool and have decent air circulation.
Here’s a really useful video from GrowVeg on drying and storing onions (and by extension shallots).
I used my first fully-dried shallots in a stir fry with kale, spinach, and chard from the garden, plus some shop-bought pak choi and broccoli (still waiting for signs of florets on my own broccolis). The stir-fried shallots were lovely. Not too strong and with a nice sweetness. I’m definitely going to grow these again.