Make the Most of the Garlic From Your Garden
Serious garlic breath on the horizon: Learn how to harvest green garlic, scapes, and produce large bulbs that can be reserved for recipes or replanted next year.
While most gardeners hone their efforts on producing a large root bulb, garlic can be harvested at any time during the growth cycle. Learn at what points you can pick your garlic, and what to do with it once it’s out of the ground to satisfy your taste buds and support next year’s harvest.
Harvest Green Garlic for Early Season Flavor
While you might be focused on growing big garlic bulbs that mature mid-summer, the entire plant is edible. To add garlic flavor to dishes early in the growing season, you can harvest young garlic when the plants stand about 12” tall. The immature bulb and tender leaves offer a mild flavor, much like scallions.
Save the Garlic Scapes and Flowers
Mid-growth cycle, you’ll see a stem thicker than the leaves emerge from your garlic. That’s the scape, topped with a bud (or bulbils) that would eventually become a flower if left on the plant. If your goal is to grow big garlic cloves, you’ll need to trim off this shoot after it emerges to concentrate growth back to the bulb. Leave the leaves of the garlic intact, and don’t throw the scape away! You can use the cut scape in a wide range of fresh recipes or preserves; it offers a mild garlic flavor and can be used in recipes much like a green onion. It also makes for a great scape pesto.
Know How and When to Harvest at the End of the Season
When at least half of your garlic’s leaves have wilted, you’re in the clear to harvest full bulbs. Every leaf on the plant represents a protective layer around the garlic head, so if you wait so long that all of the greenery has wilted and dried, the papers around the bulb will be less protective. This makes cloves themselves more susceptible to underground rot, and they even may begin to sprout if left long enough. Harvest too early, though, and the bulb will be under-developed with small cloves.
Once you’ve harvested, remember to cure your garlic. Hang the garlic in a dry spot so that air can circulate around the leaves and bulb. Wait a few weeks, and then trim off the dried, wilted leaves. Store it "dirty" until you plan to use it, as washing the garlic increases the chances that it may sprout, or begin to rot.
Choose Your Seeds for Next Year
Once cured, choose your biggest bulbs and separate the cloves. The largest cloves are best for replanting, which takes place in late fall. Use the smaller cloves for cooking, or keep on reading to learn how you can preserve them for use all winter long.
Store Cloves for Future Cooking
Keeping the bulbs intact with their protective paper will help to make them last longer. Store the bulbs in a cool spot with good air circulation. Avoid sealing them in any type of container, and instead, opt for a mesh basket.
Not going to use them right away? You can freeze the bulbs whole or as individual cloves, but if you spot them beginning to sprout or rot, take further action such as chopping them to preserve the garlic.
Chop and Freeze Garlic in Oil
Chopping and freezing garlic makes meal prep fast and simple; it’s really convenient to have pre-chopped garlic at your fingertips. Measure 1 or 2 tablespoons into ice cube trays, top with oil, and freeze. Once frozen, pop out the cubes and store them in a glass container in the freezer.
Looking for More Recipes to Help you Preserve Your Garlic?
Make garlic butter. Roast a whole head of garlic and blend it into softened butter. Add herbs for an extra gourmet experience.
Not everyone would think of pickling garlic, but it's a great way to always make sure you have some on hand for a recipe. Plus, pickling only improves upon garlic's delicious flavor.
Follow this recipe to pickle your garlic in a red wine vinegar solution and preserve this tasty treat for year-round snacking.
Master an easy garlic bread recipe. Once assembled, you can even freeze loaves or individual slices, and toast them in minutes as an easy side for dinner.