Friday, July 29, 2016

Garlic Harvest 2016

I had the feeling that 2016 for me was a good garlic year. Now that the garlic is cured and cleaned up, I can weigh it and see what actually happened. And the tally seems to indicate it was indeed a good year for most of my garlic. I planted the same amount, five varieties getting 4 squares each, planted 4 per square foot for a total of about 80 bulbs (8 pounds). The Chesnok Red actually got only 3 squares, planted 5 per square because of its small size.

What did differ was Spanish Roja, which had been a great garlic for me, was not planted this year when I could not find the seed garlic I thought I had reserved. So it was replaced by Philips, a garlic named after a town in Maine where it was grown, but with Italian heritage via upstate New York. I found it at the MDI Garlic Festival. Spanish Roja had a bad crop the year before and I was going to give it another year.  I may grow Spanish Roja again someday with new purchased seed stock.

If you want to read about my 2015 harvest, those comments are in this post. To read comments made when I planted this crop in 2015, go here. And here are the 2016 harvest results.

The total harvest this year was 8.2 pounds (3.7kg.) versus last year at 7.8 pounds (3.5kg.). Not that much bigger in pounds but the garlic this year is far healthier and dried very well compared to last year's crop. Some of that is due to weather, but I also learned a few tricks from trying to dry and process the 2015 crop in very humid conditions. I harvested when the ground was bone dry and pulled some a little early when it looked  like rain (it didn't). That meant the bulbs were dry to start and didn't retain a lot of soil. Drying started in the garage but when the humidity soared, I moved them into the basement with a dehumidifier. They dried nicely this year and cleanup was easy.

Apparently I was not going to plant Chesnok Red this year because of its increasingly small size, replaced by the Philips garlic, but then at planting time I could not find the seed garlic for Spanish Roja. Well, I am happy I did plant this because it did very well this year. Average bulb weight this year was 1.5 ounces, up from 2015's 1 ounce. Total harvest from 3 squares weighed 23 ounces compared to 15 ounces last year. This garlic variety has small bulbs to begin with, but the smaller size also translates into improved storage life. Just last week I retrieved a couple of bulbs from the bin in the basement and most of the cloves were still usable one year after harvest. Pretty good for a hard neck. This is a Purple Stripe garlic and this year is really beautiful with its purple wrapper.

This is the second year for the purple stripe garlic, Duganski, in my garden. When I first planted it in 2014 I was upset with the seed garlic from Territorial because it was obviously harvested late and the bulbs had opened up and skins were peeling off the individual cloves. The harvest in 2015 turned out OK despite that and this year is improved. I harvested 28 ounces compared to 26 in 2015, and average size improved from 1.6 ounces to 1.7.

I purchased German Red, a Rocambole garlic, at the MDI Garlic Festival in 2014 so this is the second year for it in the garden. It is a big garlic, with about four huge cloves per bulb. Last year my largest bulb was a whopper at 4 ounces, while this year's largest was only 3 ounces. But total weight increased from 35 ounces to 37 ounces, while average size decreased from 2.8 ounces to 2.3 ounces. This one does not keep well so it has to be used quickly.

German Extra Hardy, a porcelain type, was one of my first garlics and a reliable producer. Last year was a bad year, however, and it produced a small harvest. I planted it anyway last fall, but discovered on planting day that a lot of the seed stock I had set aside was bad. As a result, I dipped into some bulbs I held in reserve but only had 13 cloves to plant. Well, it really must have been a good year for garlic because this variety did very well in 2016, producing 21 ounces from 13 bulbs versus last year's 20 ounces from 17 bulbs. That is an average 1.6 ounce bulb size compared to 1.2 ounces last year.

Philips is new in the garden this year, another Rocambole garlic that I purchased from Salty Dog Farm at the MDI Garlic Festival. This is a Maine heirloom garlic that is a little hard to find. It has a reputation of being a relatively good keeper for a Rocambole, which made it attractive. It did pretty well but there was a big variation in bulb size. I am not sure why that happened, maybe some of the planted cloves were small? At any rate, next years seed stock gets selected from the largest bulbs so hopefully it will adapt to the conditions in my garden.

The garlic harvest does seem to indicate this was a good year for garlic after last year's poor results. All of the varieties I had concern about did very well this year, so it had to be the conditions last year. The MDI Garlic Festival is definitely in the plans for this year, made even better by the co-location of a KC-sanctioned BBQ contest. I may also try to get to the Vermont Garlic Festival the weekend before. So now the garlic has been cleaned, weighed and reported and I can now begin to enjoy it and preserve some of it. There is nothing like fresh garlic.


  1. Well, congrats on a wonderful garlic harvest! And you said it, fresh garlic is the BEST!

    I just harvested all of the garlic yesterday (I'm a week or two late on that this year, although they all seem to be fine & not splitting apart) and I can already tell that it was miles ahead of last year as well. Oddly enough, I had the same observation as you - there was quite a variation in bulb size for some of the varieties. Last year was not a good garlic year, so I'm also thinking it may have to do with the size of the cloves I used.

  2. Your garlic looks amazing, and you got lots of large bulbs. So wonderful. I think it's fun watching garlic grow during the winter.

  3. Your garlic looks great, so clean and pretty. Like you I would rather harvest the garlic when conditions were dry than when wet. Unfortunately is has been wet here at harvest for two years in a row, which I know does not help the keeping qualities. I gave up on Chesnok Red. I never got bulbs even half as big as yours (according to my records). German Red does better for me, though not as big as yours. I would love to go to a garlic festival but I'm afraid how much I would bring home with me!

  4. There are some harvests that are just so satisfying, garlic being one of my favourites! Ooh, I can just imagine the delicious meals ahead of you.

    A great harvest Dave! So you said you planted about 80 and I think I added up pretty close to that in your harvest. I ended up with only about a third of what I planted, so obviously need to work on my technique (I wasn't aware of specifically harvesting in dry weather so will remember that next year).


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