Glorious Garlic from my Kitchen Garden:
I planted our garlic bulbs in October. Each one was broken up into individual cloves, then planted just so that the top green tip was fractionally showing above the soil. I had to protect them with canes placed strategically at all angles to stop our friendly blackbirds and annoying pigeons from digging them up, thinking they were worms, grubs or just fresh greenery. Amazingly they survived being buried under a foot of snow and solid ice, and, thank heavens, have lived to grow up and ripen. Two weeks ago, with the leaves turning yellow and flopping down, I took the plunge to dig them up.
It’s always with trepidation that you do this, not really knowing if the bulbs have swelled into ripe, juicy spheres. But luckily mine had fulfilled their promise. I dug up masses of superb, full garlic bulbs, larger and fatter than ever before – maybe that snow and ice had a good effect after all – who knows?
So I left them to dry for a few days in the sun on the wire frame over my asparagus bed (the garlicky aroma was the first thing that hit me when I entered the Kitchen Garden). Then (suprise, suprise!) rain was forecast, so I decided the time was right to get them under cover.
Two years ago, at my first attempt at growing garlic, I wanted to plait the bulbs up to make them look ‘pretty’. I followed the instructions in the book, but after dozens of attempts and many expletives, I decided that ‘pretty’ wasn’t really that important. The many huge pigeons that perched on my fence, or were up to ‘no good’ in the trees and bushes near me, were hopefully the only live beings that heard me utter oaths of frustration. So I had to think of another way of hanging them up.
My garlic plants this year were huge, some about three foot long, and with a mind of their own. After flicking bits of flaky outer layers of garlic out of my (by now) tangled hair, I brushed off the worst of the mud, and carefully cut off most of the tangled muddy roots, to check that there were no small damp lumps of soil entangled within them that could rot the bulbs.
After my failed attempts at plaiting, I had devised a way of bundling them up at different levels, then tying them together with soft rope, and then I hung them on hooks to dangle freely from the inside of my shed roof. The gorgeous smell of fresh garlic welcomed me every time I opened the door for a week or so. The glimmer of ideas of how to enhance many recipes with our own freshly dug up garlic bought a smile to my face. How lucky am I?
My all-time favourite producer of garlic bulbs to plant in the Kitchen Garden is The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight. They have so much choice and information, and the website contains a lot of interesting things to look at, including the farm cafe and shop.