Garlic, the Final Verdict

greenhouse garlic

As you may recall, last year I was very excitingly given three sets of heritage garlic bulbs by Marshall Seeds to trial and report on to see how they might cope with the sort of conditions we ‘enjoy’ in Scotland.

garlic under snow

garlic under the snow

Initially, I was worried about the garlic surviving the winter at all – but all of it managed to sail through some of the wettest, windiest and most changeable winters we’d experienced and come out looking pretty splendid.

garlic plants

Then – by way of a bonus – we discovered scapes, which are seriously one of the most delicious things you can grow in your garden and were entirely unexpected. Having enjoyed those we were looking forward to the main event – after all that nurturing and care.

garlic stems

But I’ve long said it’s not the winters that are the problem around here – it’s the summers. And as after a fine start, the summer quickly degenerated into wet weather, it did look as if I had missed the moment to actually harvest the bulbs themselves. It didn’t help that we were moving house, so I had other more pressing matters on my mind.

sprouting garlic

If you’re wondering if you’ve left your garlic too long before harvesting, this might tip you off …

By the time I got to them, many of those which hadn’t started to sprout, had started to rot in the soil, although some of them had formed really impressive bulbs. We managed to lift some to eat right away (chicken and garlic in white wine – a delicious way to use up garlic in a hurry), and a couple of weeks ago – just after we’d moved – I lifted the rest and left them to dry before going through the resulting bulbs to see what had survived

garlic harvest

Some have, unfortunately, rotted further, while others have sprouted but I have – just – managed to produce slightly more garlic than I started with. The Mikulov seems to have survived best, producing whole bulbs, which actually look as if they will store quite well (always assuming we don’t eat them first).

final garlic haul

And the pinkish ones (I think Bohemian Rose – unfortunately the labels blew away before I could harvest them) certainly look splendid, although they broke up into individual cloves as the papery skins got too soggy and soft in the claggy soil.

pinkish garlic cloves

All in all a qualified success (especially the scapes) and one I will repeat again but with the following minor modifications to my growing method:

1. get all the cloves straight into the ground and not mess around with pots, waiting till new year or anything like that
2. not move house just at the point when they’re ready to harvest
3. consider planting them in a dryer, sunnier location such as (to pick an example at random) not Scotland.

Oh, OK, maybe not the last one. Although with the weather we’ve had these last few weeks, Spain is looking distinctly tempting…

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