GARLIC HARVESTING, CURING & STORAGE
Now is the time to check your garlic plants to see if they are ready to dig up. The ‘rule of thumb’ is to harvest when the lower one third or half of the leaves on the plant have turned yellow. So, if your plant has 8 leaves, harvest when the 3 or 4 lowest leaves have turned brown but there are still mostly green leaves higher on the plant.
Harvesting prematurely can make for thin skins and shorter storage life, while harvesting too late will negate flavor nuances and elevate the levels of heat of the varieties you grew. You can always test dig one
or two plants. On the High Plains, depending on the weather, harvest can begin as early as the first week of July. There is also a two to three week difference in the harvest dates of the several varieties. To get the bulbs out of the ground, don’t just try to pull them. The stalks will break. You must dig, using a garden fork or the like to loosen the soil. Then you can lift the entire plant out of the ground.
If you want to store your garlic, you have to cure it first. After the curing process, bulbs store up to six months if properly stored. The entire plant, leaves and all, should be dried out for about two to three weeks. The drier your climate the faster the curing will go and the less chance you will have to deal with mold. The simplest method is to tie up a bunch with string/wire and hang it in a well ventilated, cool, shady, place. Do not wash your bulbs or let them be exposed to water. You can also pack them loosely into large mesh bags or in open sided crates. But they must get a lot of air circulation. Wire shelving in the garage works well if there is air movement from fans or open windows. After the curing is complete, lop off the tops about an inch above the bulb and trim off the roots. Keep the bulbs intact – do not remove any cloves.
Storing garlic requires an even temperature (50-70°F seems to work) and a relative humidity averaging in the 50-60% range. Make sure they get plenty of air circulation. Most hardneck garlics and elephant garlic can be kept for about 4 months. The softneck varieties tend to have a longer shelf life, 6 months or even longer.