Harvesting the Garlic & How to Make a Garlic Braid

The garlic, planted on June 6, 2009 was ready for harvesting at the beginning of January,2010. This photo shows the garlic bed on Jan 6, seven months after planting.
About two weeks before the harvest I stop watering, and leave the bed to become dry. I scrape a bit of soil away at the top of a few plants to expose the top of the bulb so that I can check the size. I like to leave the garlic in the ground as long as I can, in the hope that the bulbs will have maximum growth.

In the photo you can see that the tips and outer leaves of the plants have browned off and they are starting to fall over.
This is the stage at which I choose to harvest my garlic.
I have read, that if I harvest garlic when there are still about 6 inner leaves showing about three quarters of their length green, the garlic bulb will have a good thick skin, because it is the inner leaves that form this skin.

I use my planting trowel to ease the garlic bulbs up out of the soil, rather than pulling them up, so that they do not break off.
This year I harvested some plants before the others because their tops had dried dried off a bit faster. The rest of the crop were ready a few days later.

After the bulbs are dug up I put them in a warm spot to dry.
I use this metal towel rail for drying all sorts of things. It stands on the concrete in front of a stucco wall and makes an excellent environment for drying crops.
This is the first garlic harvest drying along with some shallots.

When the outer leaves have dried but there is still a core of green in the centre I prepare the garlic for braiding.
If the stems are too dry they will not be flexible enough to plait.
I rub the dirty outer skin off the bulb and take off the outermost leaves if they are loose, by pulling them upward.
The roots are brushed with an old toothbrush to remove most of the soil.

The garlic is now ready to braid.

Take 3 of the biggest bulbs and cross them ready to plait . The bulbs are at the top of the plait, the leaves hang down.

Add a 4th bulb and align its stalk with the right hand stalk .

I have crossed the double strand behind the other 2 stalks and brought it into the middle. You can see the two strands held under my thumb.

Add in the 5th bulb, and align its stalk with the next strand that will cross in the braid- you are plaiting. Cross this strand to make the plait.

Continue in this manner adding in bulbs and plaiting them in , until you have the size you want.

You can make a braid with just a few bulbs or as many as you can fit.

Once you have plaited in as many bulbs as you want, keep plaiting the stalks until you get to the tips.

Secure the ends with a rubber band. This will keep the braid held tight even when the leaves shrink with further drying.

Tie a piece of raffia, flax or string over the rubber band and your garlic braid is ready to hang.

Hang it in an airy place to continue to dry.

This is my garlic harvest. The first harvest has been braided. The rest still has green leaves and is not ready to braid yet.
I have taken some small and imperfect bulbs into our kitchen, to be used up first. I only braid the bulbs that will keep well.
I am going to save my small braid of Kakanui garlic to plant this year.
Out of the 3 varieties I planted, ( Kakanui, Printanor and Pintanol) Kakanui has the biggest bulbs, so I would like to grow more of it.

Having a crop of garlic braided and hanging ready for use gives me a real sense of satisfaction.
I find if it has been harvested and dried carefully it stores well like this.
I usually have enough usable garlic to last me nearly a year.

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Comment by Hester on January 11, 2010 at 11:25am
Like your suggestions, thanks Kali. Amazing how the climate varies throughout New Zealand. We have had 2 weeks of hot, dry norwesters. Watering once a day hasn't been enough-the ground dries out so fast and plants in the wind lose so much water through their leaves. It is supposed to rain heavily for the next few days but although I can smell it in the air, it is still not happening here at nearly midday. At least the wind has eased a bit .
Comment by Kali on January 10, 2010 at 10:57pm
Much easier to do than to explain so well done. I always braid what I can of the garlic harvest and have got better over the years with practise, however they are never as neat as I wish. I usually cut the roots off with scissors and tie the first three bulbs together with a little piece of flax. I also cut the braiding lengths off to about 20cm so that the braid doesn't get too many strands as it goes up, making it easier to manage, then the top section is pliable enough to tie into a neat loop for hanging. mine is nearly ready to plait, didn't have the luxury of not watering before harvest as it has been very rainy here, I only had one day to leave it out on the concrete to dry off and then had to hang it inside.
Comment by Robyn Wolfe on January 10, 2010 at 10:05am
You're a born teacher! Well done!
Comment by Megan on January 10, 2010 at 9:33am
thanks so much for taking the time to photograph and write this up! Although I can plait hair, have always struggled with garlic braids, thinking of the stalks as doing a french plait ought to do the trick!
Comment by Yvonne Nikolaison on January 10, 2010 at 9:25am
Thank you so much Hester for putting this wonderfully detailed blog up for us all to see. I brought some garlic yesterday to perserve my daughter loves it.


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