Today I got the urge to dig out some garlic, even though it may be early in some respects, I got to feeling I should spread out my time harvesting while securing an early as well as a later harvest. An interesting aspect of getting the garlic ready for harvest is that at some point the irrigation has to cease so that the garlic can form its skin without the danger of water splitting the skins by swelling the cloves beneath with a fresh supply of water. We didn’t have to worry about that this year, we ran out of water a couple of weeks ago and aren’t likely to get it back in the near future.
My hardneck garlic scape forms a double spiral in late May/early June and then unwinds itself in late June/early July. When the scape is standing straight up is the time, more or less, to harvest. Another indicator that happens simultaneously is the formation of the seeds in the head of the scape that you can see getting more and more defined under the skin of the scape as this time goes on. I learned that whatever the scape is doing above, the head of garlic is doing below. So if the seeds in the head of the scape completely form to where the scape then splits open, you will lose garlic quality when your cloves also begin to split away from the stem and from each other. There is also some maturation that happens after you harvest and hang the garlic bundles in a cool dark place for several days or weeks, what is locally referred to as “curando.”
The nice part about harvesting early is now I can wait a while longer to harvest my subsequent rows of garlic and relate their qualitative aspects to better understand the effects of different harvest and curing times in relation to taste, ease of processing, storage ability, etc. And the best part is being re-supplied with another generation of garlic!