Saturday, August 30, 2014

Allium Harvest 2014



The allium harvest in general was a mixed bag this year, the bright spot being the seed shallots shown above. I started seed of Saffron in February and transplanted the seedlings to the garden in early May (late this year because of weather, should have been in early April). The shallots were pulled in late July when the foliage appeared to be sort of tilting horizontally. The foliage did not actually flop like onions do, but I decided it was time to pull them. They spent about 4 weeks on the porch drying out.




In about 5 square feet of bed, the Saffron shallots produced 37 bulbs (approximately 7 per square foot) weighing a total of 45 ounces, with the largest bulb weighing 2.5 ounces. Seed shallots are supposed to produce a single bulb per transplant. I actually had 3 produce twin bulbs, which can happen if they have sufficient spacing. And if you look at the close-up above, you can see from the shape of the bulbs that many of them are dividing, some are quite obvious. I will definitely be growing these again next year.




The storage onions were less successful, partly due to my own efforts to start seed. When I sowed seed in February, it was difficult to see the black seed on the black starting mix, so I sowed the seeds too thickly and the resulting seedlings were crowded. The result was spindly transplants, many of which did not survive in the garden. Above are the Red Wing onions. Five squares yielded 20 onions weighing a total of 58 ounces, compared to 139 ounces last year for the same space. I did not photograph the Patterson yellow onions, but six squares yielded 67 ounces of onions compared to 140 ounces of Copra onions last year. Pretty poor, but next year will be better!




This week the garlic was finally dry enough to clean it up. I don't know why but this year the garlic took a very long time to dry. Besides that, it was mostly a poor garlic year. The German Extra Hardy garlic above yielded 17 heads weighing 18 ounces. This garlic did not keep well last year and is only good for a couple of months given my storage conditions in the basement. When I went to plant garlic last Fall, I found that a lot of the cloves in my reserved seed garlic were turning brown and soft. The result was I only had enough viable cloves to plant three squares. Last year I got 2 pounds of garlic from four squares. I planted these a little later, so I have to be sure to get at least this variety into the ground by mid-October. Storing seed garlic is tricky I found, as detailed in my post on storing seed garlic.




The Chesnok Red garlic I grew last year produced nice, fairly large heads and stored much better than the German Extra Hardy, so I had enough seed garlic to plant the allocated 4 squares. Given the poor garlic season this year, it did alright but yield was down. Last year I harvested 2.5 pounds from 5 squares, and this year I got 32 heads weighing 1.7 pounds from 4 squares. Largest head weighed 1 ounce. Still, it is a great garlic and gets re-planted this Fall.




I was infected with garlic fever after my success last year growing garlic for the first time. I decided I wanted to try an additional variety, and high on to try list was Spanish Roja garlic. I bought mine from Territorial, which touted that their garlic seed stock was certified virus free and therefore the heads would be much larger. Whatever, this garlic did very well this year, the best of the garlics. Six squares yielded 33 heads weighing almost 3 pounds. The biggest bulb weighed 2 ounces. This is a keeper and gets planted again this Fall, and I recommend Territorial as a source of excellent seed garlic.




Unfortunately, when I go looking for something like Spanish Roja seed garlic, I get exposed to all the pretty pictures on the Internet describing the dozens of varieties of garlic. For some reason I became enamored of Rossa di Sulmona garlic, a  legendary garlic from the village of Sulmona in Abruzzo, Italy and had to have some. Most vendors were sold out but Seeds of Italy had some stock coming in from Italy, waiting for clearance through customs.


The heads of garlic from Seeds of Italy were big and beautiful but my results were less so. You can see my harvest of this garlic above. Note that the large white head of garlic above is a Spanish Roja I put in the basket for size comparison. My half pound of seed garlic planted in 5 squares yielded 40 small heads weighing a total of 17 ounces. So what’s the deal? Is this a matter of the garlic getting acclimated to my climate in New England, which is probably a bit different than Abruzzo, or just a bad year here for growing garlic? There are a couple of larger heads I could use for seed garlic to see if it adapts better next year, but I am on the fence about re-planting this variety.




I also was tempted into trying Viola Francese, a garlic popular in the Mediterranean regions of France and Italy. It is a beautiful garlic with large heads, supposedly an artichoke-type softneck garlic (which it is definitely not, as I will detail in a future post). I found some at Cook’s Garden and tried it. The results were the worst of the 5 varieties I planted. This one was grown in the US so I can’t blame the source climate. From two heads weighing 4 ounces, I harvested 15 heads weighing a total of 9 ounces. They are teensy and were difficult to clean, since the outside skins seemed to stick to the cloves. Most likely not planting this one again.


  1. It is interesting that you found German Extra Hardy hard to store. I find it lasts forever which is one of the reasons I only grow that one (and I mix garlic varieties up otherwise). It keeps for me until I harvest garlic again the next year.

    1. It surprised me. That was the summer the temps were so hot while the garlic was curing, don't know if that might have affected it.

  2. Beautiful pics of both onions and garlic. I have only ever grown russian red garlic, which is quite common in eastern ontario. Yours look wonderful!

  3. How nice those onion and garlic are! I have never grown them. I want to try them.

  4. What a great roundup of all your alliums. I just cleaned up my garlic yesterday and my results were overall pretty bad - you think your Viola Francese did poorly? One of my varieties did even worse - 19 bulbs totaled 9 ounces! Out of the 5 varieties I planted, I will likely only replant two of them in the fall. There is a garlic festival in Stratford Ontario and this year I am FINALLY going to go. Hopefully I'll find some interesting local varieties to add to my fall planting.

  5. Interesting how these varieties have done for you. Chesnok Red made tiny bulbs here. Viola Francese made big bulbs, but didn't keep long enough to replant it. My stock came from Seeds of Italy and it was not an artichoke type for sure. Rossa di Sulmona made small bulbs, but they kept quite well. I decided all 3 didn't do well enough here to keep on growing them. Spanish Roja does well some years, others not so well, but it has a great taste so I will keep on growing it.

    I have found that the garlic varieties are pretty particular about growing conditions, with some favoring milder winters and others liking the cold. Some also seem more tolerant of wet spring growing conditions than others. Of course the gardener can't control the weather, so I have found quite a few types that seem to do well for me regardless of the weather. I suspect you will have to go through much the same process to find what grows in your garden.


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