Once the garlic is off the field we bundle the plants into bunches of about a dozen. A bundle large enough to easily grab with both hands. Bundles are placed on a tying table and the crew then links two bundles together with twine.
Just like saddling a horse each bundle is placed over a cross piece on a drying rack which resemble a ladder… only not.
After all the garlic is hung to dry in the barn, we call it a barn but it only has a roof for weather protection and is open on the sides to allow for great ventilation. Anyway, the garlic is hung for at least two and preferably three weeks before it is trimmed and cleaned for market.
So yeah. Hopefully that answers some questions you had about our simple method of drying garlic.
Must admit to being a little anxious. This past Tuesday we began harvesting the Russian Red hardneck garlic. The crew worked long, hard days in very warm temperatures. Consequently we plan our day to begin at 5:00am in the cool of the morning. We are 75% complete with the Russian Red harvest. We will be at it again tomorrow finishing up Tuesday. We decided to take the weekend off in part to soothe sore muscles but mostly to avoid the high heat. The forecast high today calls for 38 celcius. Our fields are usually 3 to 4 degrees warmer than the forecast.
Regardless, the harvest albeit a few days late is looking excellent. The average bulb size is about 2-1/2 inches with a large portion approaching 3 inches. I have my eye on some of those for my seed this fall.
Smaller bulbs average 1-1/2 to 2 inches. When purchasing garlic consider smaller bulbs if you require a small amount. The garlic flavour in Russian Red is intense regardless of bulb size so no worries there either.
Our garlic is hanging in the drying shed which is open on three sides to allow for excellent ventilation. You must go deep to get through the 30′ aisle to the other open side.
The drying shed can accommodate about 16,000 pounds all under one roof.
After the garlic has hung for a few more days we can begin trimming and cleaning the bulbs in preparation to send them to market.
We began harvesting our small field of early Kowloon softneck garlic. Roughly 15,000 plants in all providing excellent practice and team building skills for our field hands as they prepare for the 112,000 Russian Red hardneck plants that will be coming off the big field in three weeks. We have 7 regular field hands for the Kowloon harvest and other farmersdotter duties. These great folks will provide team leadership for the 7 to 12 extra hands that will be required for the Russian Rad harvest. Below Raina and Dan take relief from the 37 centigrade heat.
Once dried then cleaned the Kowloon in placed on conveniently located racks for further curing. I say convenient because the Kowloon goes to market very quick and won’t require long storage in our storage shed. We thought it best to try racking these little guys right in the field next to the vehicle path.
Less work and handling of the garlic is a bonus. So far the orders are keeping pace of harvest so we only need replace empty space with more Kowloon. We just may get away without having to built more curing racks. In the photos you can see large clear recycle bags to the right of the rack. These sealed bags contain harvest waste that in time should solarize or cook the waste eliminating any chance of transferring unseen pests or diseases back into the environment.