The Garlic Harvest

July 19, 2011


     Last night it rained. It didn't just rain the shy July rain that leaves the dry earth still covered in dust and hoping for more, it rained a soaking rain that seeped into the soil a few inches. This is rare. But regardless of the strange weather this summer, I am thankful for the rain. And I am thankful I got the garlic harvest finished before this unexpected moisture soaked into the ground.

     This year, I tried several new heritage varieties of garlic including Chinook Red, Transylvanian, Early Italian Red and Susanville. Garlic is one of those crops that you can almost forget about for several months while it grows. But when the time comes to harvest, garlic is not very forgiving. If you harvest too early, the garlic will not cure properly and if you harvest too late then, well, the garlic won't cure properly, and this window is not very long.

     I had stopped watering the garlic a couple weeks ago and had been noticing in the past week that the lower leaves were beginning to brown‒the number of brown leaves is the sign most people use to indicate when to harvest. But I had much on my mind as I was getting ready to leave to visit with family on the east coast. But yesterday, the last full day I was at Windward before travels, sometime in the late afternoon, the garlic declared it was ready to be harvested.

     And so I listened.

some of the garlic harvest

     Pulling garlic out of the ground is similar to harvesting potatoes in that its like finding buried treasure. You have a sense of how large the heads are going to be by the size of the stem and leaves, but there is still a great deal of surprise when you finally pull the head out of the soil and let the garlic show itself to the world.

garlic hanging in the hay barn

     Kotomi and Andrew helped with the harvest. And it was our largest yet. I was also pleased to find that most of the heads were quite large. To cure well, garlic likes to be in a location out of the direct sun and with good air circulation. So after several hours of tying garlic into bunches this morning, the garlic is now hanging from the rafters of the hay barn. And I am free to drive to the airport.

     Sometimes the land just doesn't let you leave with ease.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 71