The 2010 Garlic Harvest

I've been working on a meaty, essay-type post, but I'm also still plugging away at the last push of grading for the school year before graduation on Tuesday, so the post lags along—a few sentences a day, as I think of them between papers. But the garden doesn't rest no matter how much real-job work I have to do, so here is a picture-heavy, word-light post of the finally completed allium harvest. Cleaned and almost completely cured, I have now put most of my garlic seed stock in storage (in labeled paper bags in a dark, dry closet) with just a few of the later harvest to store away in the next couple weeks.

I've chosen the two most attractive bulbs of each variety to photograph. I haven't had a chance to taste each variety yet, but I'll give a brief note on growing habits with each portrait. And, you can read notes (if you're interested) on varieties I've grown before here. I've presented the portraits below in the order of harvest this year.

Without further ado, I'd like to introduce the garlic class of 2010.

A Turban Variety

As you can see, Shilla gave me some of my largest heads of the year, but it also gave me some of my smallest. The plant matured what seemed to be impossibly early, in the early part of May, and if I had waited any longer, I'm pretty sure the heads would have split. Next year, I'm going to be careful to plant only the absolute largest cloves to ensure lots of heads like those pictured above.

A Turban Variety

In its first year in my garden, Sonoran yielded medium-large bulbs that are all approximately the same size; there were no huge or minute anomalies. It grew quickly and vigorously, nipping at Shilla's heels for early maturity. It has pretty, rounded heads with dark brown-purple stripes.

Red Janice
A Turban Variety

Red Janice bulbs are identical in shape to Shilla and color to Sonoran. It grew very well this year, its first year in my garden, and steadily produced large, many-cloved heads. As you can see in some of these pictures, Turban varieties often have pointed cloves, the top of which tent the bulbs into a weak crown. If this variety tastes as good as it grows, it is a keeper.

A Turban Variety

Blossoms bulbs are uniformly huge, another surprise for its first year hear. If a garlic does this well before even acclimating over the course of a few years to soil and climate, it should be stellar later. Like all the Turban varieties, it grew quickly and harvested early. All Turban varieties have vigorous, slightly raggedy (for a garlic, that is) foliage that is a medium green, not blue-tinted like many other varieties.

Lorz Italian
An Artichoke Variety

Lorz Italian really struggled this year, its first in my garden. It was so slow to get started, and it quit growing earlier than I expected it to, considering how small the plants were. The bulbs turned out larger than I imagined they would despite the sparse foliage. However, many of them were misshapen, and quite a few had miniature bulblets just above the bulb. On the positive side, the nicest bulbs were better formed and larger than the seed stock that I planted. We'll see if another year acclimating will produce nicer heads.

Red Toch
An Artichoke Variety

For me, Red Toch just won't quit. It's a reliable producer of large-cloved large bulbs. The plants are typical artichokes, with larger, floppy green leaves. Like other artichokes, it sends up no scape, so all of its energy goes into those big ol' cloves.

A Marbled Purple Stripe Variety

Small and weak looking its entire life, I wasn't sure that Bogatyr would give me anything, but sure enough, each blue-tinted plant gave me a small head with four or five large-for-the-plant's-size cloves. Keeping me from being disappointed over Bogatyr is my memory of Metechi, perhaps my favorite garlic for flavor, that used to give me small heads that were often single cloves (rounds), but that now grows very well for me. Though small, Bogatyr is mighty pretty, with chiaroscuro coloring in creams, browns, and purples.

Ajo Rojo
A Creole Variety

Ajo Rojo is vigorous and leafy, and each year I grow it, I get bigger and prettier heads. It's a funny grower: most plants give nice scapes (yum, stirfry!), but some don't try to flower at all. There is something about this plant that seems natural here; it feels like the garlic that would grow here natively if garlic were to be native. Thank goodness it is DELICIOUS!

A Marbled Purple Stripe Variety

I cannot believe how well Khabar grew for me; as it is a Marbled Purple Stripe, and it is its first year in my garden, I didn't expect heads this large. But grew it did, and mightily so. I wonder how it will compare in flavor to Metechi, my standard for Marbled Purple Stripe flavor. Like other Marbled Purple Stripes, it grew with gorgeous architecture: geometric, symmetrical, and teal-blue.

An Artichoke Variety

Consistently, Applegate gives me the biggest, curviest, most seductive heads. However, I don't grow much of it because it is so mild that its best use is raw, and I use more cooked garlic than raw garlic. But I keep it around because it is drop dead gorgeous, peach and tan and creamy, and everyone I share it with really enjoys it.

A Marbled Purple Stripe Variety

If you're curious what acclimation does to garlic, scroll up to review Bogatyr. That is what Metechi used to look like for me. Look at this baby now! Almost every head is as large as those pictured, and each is only six or so huge cloves. Thank goodness Metechi is warming up to my microclimate because this is one of my absolute favorite garlics. Very late to harvest, Metechi stays pretty in the garden a long time, holding its almost horizontal blue-green leaves to the very end.

A Porcelain Variety

Everything I have ever read about garlic varieties tells me that Porcelains are not supposed to grow well in our warm climate. Well, Music may grow larger in other climates, but for its first year in my garden, it grew very well. In fact, the plants themselves were downright mighty, towering over all the others by about eight inches. The long leaves splayed out to form an urn shape, and they held their color for a long time. I harvested it alongside Metechi, my standard for late garlics, but I think Music could have used another week. The heads themselves are silken and beautiful, similar in appearance to a Ajo Rojo, but with larger cloves.


Since nearly all of my garlic is cured and ready for storage, I've bagged the eating garlic to hang in the work room off the kitchen. The most full bag contains Artichoke and Turban varieties because some of them are the shortest storing. The bag on the bottom left contains Marbled Purple Stripes (and the Music will go in there too, once they're finished curing), long lasting and so good in flavor for winter cooking. Finally, the bag on the bottom right is full of Ajo Rojo, my longest storing garlic. Under the silky-white outer wrapper, each clove is thickly blanketed with royal burgundy wrapping, holding in its goodness for a long, long time.

As well this week, I bagged up about four pounds of Sharon's Shallot, a tawny-colored shallot that I received from another Seed Savers member.

And finally, I'm about halfway through the Monticello poppy seed harvest, and I've already collected a quart of seed. Poppy seed recipes, anyone?

Phew, that was a lot more words than I expected to write.


If you'd like to see what other folks are harvesting this time of year, stop by Daphne's Dandelions, where Daphne graciously hosts Harvest Mondays.


michelle said…
Wow, 12 varieties of garlic! They are all impressive looking, even the small Bogatyr. It looks like they are all hardneck varieties. I grew 6 hardneck and 2 softneck varieties this year. The softnecks are a real disappointment, they are very late, probably too late because rust is killing the foliage prematurely and the bulbs aren't sizing up. I've ordered 2 different softnecks for next year, I hope they do better.

My poppies are almost done blooming and there's a forest of seed pods. I can't wait for them to be ready to harvest. Do you wait for the pods to dry on the plants? Poppy seed breadsticks are on my short list, but other than that I need inspiration also.
Thank you for the excellent garlic report! You have a few that I am growing and haven't harvested yet(Lorz Italian, Red Toch, Music), plus a couple I have thought about trying (Red Janice, Ajo rojo). Now I have even more to consider!

I also am glad to hear that garlic really does acclimate itself over time. I'm in my first or second year for most of my varieties, so I guess I really need to give them more time before I decide who makes the cut.
johanna said…
I didn't know there were that many kinds of garlic. Beautiful.
Christina said…
Hi Michelle: No, they're not all hardnecks. The Red Toch, Lorz Italian, and Applegate are artichoke varieties, which are softnecks. I'm so sorry to hear about the rust. I hear that that is a common problem with garlic--perhaps planting more Turban or Asiatic varieties, the earliest to harvest, will help you escape it. I hope next year's crop grows better for you. As for the poppies, don't you wish they bloomed a little longer? And ooooh, poppy seed breadsticks sound yummy.

Villager: I'm still kicking myself for giving up after one year on Korean Red a few years ago after only getting very small heads and rounds. I didn't understand how much a couple seasons could affect the growth of a garlic. It's a fun science experiment to watch what makes it and what doesn't. And yes, let's work out a trade later this summer, after you've finished your harvest.

Johanna: Oh, there are hundreds, and I've just started on my quest to taste-test them all!
Lisa said…
Can you explain what you mean by multiple growing seasons for garlic? Do you leave it in the ground like a lily?

Oh wow, your post is so inspiring. I missed the planting date for garlic (or I misunderstood, and *thought* I missed it). And none of my poppies germinated. Or he slgs ate 'em, or something.
Dan said…
Cool photos. Loving all the variety, very nice.
Unknown said…

I *heart* garlic - what a wonderful harvest!
Christina said…
Hi Lisa and Robb: Thanks for the question. No, I don't leave it in the ground like a lily. I harvest the garlic, and in October, I plant the best heads that I've reserved as seed stock. But what happens is remarkable: garlic that grows in the same microclimate and soil conditions for a while acclimates to it and performs better. So, the garlic that I grow from seed stock that I've raised usually grows better than seed stock that I've purchased. I hope that makes sense. I'm sorry to hear about your poppy seeds. Once you get them going though, I think you'll find that they'll take care of themselves, reseeding in the least expected places year after year.

Dan: Thanks! I can't believe how great a backdrop the concrete floor of my shed makes. I think I just got lucky with lighting.

Allison: I love it too, and I really, really enjoy growing it.
Rowena said…
I knew that you had a passion for garlic, but I had no idea how much! Thank you for all of this wonderful info...I might try planting garlic next year. I'm also hoping that you'll be writing about *ahem* your melons again. This year it looks like I won't be harvesting anything, as the bugs or whatever insect seem to be paricularly interested in munching on the seedlings that are/had been pushing through the dirt. I still remember your all-time favorite thus far!
Angela said…
Thanks for the detailed report. I'll have to try Ajo Rojo, if it does well at your place it should do well at mine and I am looking for long storage garlic varieties. Where did you find it?
Daphne Gould said…
I'm growing Bogatyr too. The cloves I got a couple years ago to plant were very small. Last summer when I harvested they were bigger. I'm hoping they are even bigger this year. If not they will be put to the side. I have two others I like better right now (German Extra Hardy, and a random supermarket variety that grows very well here - I need to give it a name someday). I hadn't even thought of growing a mild variety for fresh eating. Hmmm. I might have to try one of those someday.
mac said…
Thank you for the detail garlic report, I've learned a lot from you.
Anonymous said…
I am impressed by detailed garlic report. I grow only one variety and I don’t know which. This post gives me completely new perspective on garlic. I knew that there were different varieties, but I didn’t know that they are so different.
Thomas said…
WOW, I can't believe you have the space to grow that many garlic varieties...this is really impressive. They all look so perfect. Now your getting exciting about our garlic harvest, which should happen in early July.
Anonymous said…
Now that I'm a total garlic head (and I'm not complaining, believe me), how soon can I replant some of the cloves?

(I'm like a miser with my mesh bag, counting and recounting my garlic.)
Anonymous said…
Nevermind, I just saw. I have to wait to October. I'm going to try a few in September, just to see...
Christina said…
Rowena: I've got watermelons rolling along mightily right now, lots of winter squash, but only a few melons. I think I'm going to have to reseed--the weather changed just as they were germinating, and I lost a bunch of them. Luckily our season is long, so it doesn't matter that I'm starting them so late.

Angela: I think I got it from Gourmet Garlic Gardens. He's in Texas and probably has some great suggestions for your climate.

Daphne: Most of the time the artichoke varieties are much milder than others, so maybe one of those would work. I'm glad I'm not the only one struggling with Bogatyr.

Mac: You're welcome!

Vrtlarica: It's fun to have different varieties for different purposes. I'm glad this post sparked some curiosity!

AltadenaHiker: I get the same way, wondering how long this will last E and me. Last year, we almost made it all year, but I have to admit, I was getting pretty stingy towards the end; this year there is more. I'm glad it grew well for you and that you're excited to plant again this fall. Let me know how September-planting works. I'd love to be able to get the garlic out even earlier to get more crops in after it.
Amy said…
I love visiting your garden. Besides the drooling, I always learn. I'm going to watch and study your presentation and have my own garlic next year. I hope. :)
susanr said…
Great blog. As a fellow Altadenan and avid gardener it is so nice to meet you, even if it is only online! Keep writing and I look forward to reading more about your thoughts on being an urban grower.
Christina said…
AmyR: What a great treat to look forward to! I'm sure you'll have success.

SusanR: Nice to meet you. And, thanks for the compliments!
Amanda said…
Interesting! I am planning on making a similar post to my own blog, but I haven't quite finished curing everyone yet. I also grew Bogatyr, but weirdly enough it was the best performing hardneck I grew. My softnecks did much better, and were the first to be ready to harvest. I didn't know that garlic could acclimate like that. I will reconsider getting rid of some of my poorer performers right away.

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