Growing and Harvesting Garlic...
One of his favorite things to grow was garlic. The smell of the earth mixed with garlic brings back the look on his face and his well weathered hands. I see his eyes examining the bulging bulbs and I know that my love for this potent vegetable came from something deep within him that he passed to me.
As garlic grows, it may or may not grow a scape. Hard-necked garlic grows a scape that should be cut off as soon as it appears, so that the garlic grows it's bulb not the flower. (Scapes are great in eggs or made into a pesto.) Soft neck garlic has no scape and stores longer than the hard neck types. When the leaves begin to yellow (I wait until about 1/3 to 1/2 of the leaves have yellowed), then it is time to dig. Gently lift the soil with a garden fork and pull out the glorious bulbs. We then wash our garlic and lay it out to dry or cure. After a day in the sun, we braid the soft neck garlics. After a few days in the sun, we cut off the leaves of the hard neck garlic and store them in a cool dry place.
If you want to grow garlic, the best thing to do is visit a farmer's market and gather a supply of garlic that you like. (Don't plant grocery store garlic, it is sprayed with a chemical to keep it from germinating.) I scour markets for different and unique varieties. This last year I fell in love with a type called Metichi that I bought from a farmer in Idaho. It is strong, extremely large, and purple striped. I also have a variety that I gathered from a farmer friend that he got from an old farmer in Idaho that no longer farms. The garlic was his passion and story and it now grows in my garden! (How exciting is that?) Once you have gathered your garlic, prepare a place to plant it and get it in the ground in October. Next summer you will have a spicy, pungent treat waiting for you in the garden. Oh, and the vampires will leave you alone, that in itself makes garlic worth planting!!!