by Peter Heffelfinger
posted July 13, 2020
After I took the scapes off the plot of garlic two weeks ago, I was hoping the usual sunny weather of early July would add the last needed bit of maturity to the bulbs before harvest. The outer sheaths of the test bulbs I pulled up looked good, dry and white. But more rains came, as has been the pattern all spring and holding on into summer. By the time we pulled the garlic, the mold had surfaced. A good 30% went straight to the burn pile, probably blackened much earlier but now in full fungal bloom. The rest of the bulbs were generally smaller than usual, and needed to be cleaned post haste in order to prevent any lingering spores developing as the heads cure, hung up in the breezeway of the carport.
Out of the 800+ plants seeded last fall we will be lucky to have 60% cure well. My biggest worry is having enough clean seed for planting this fall for next year’s crop. Over the years we have built up solid stocks of four hard neck varieties: Music, Deja Vue, Korean Red and Russian Red. The Russian Red is a particular favorite, since it stores so long, due to a very hard, shell-like skin around the uniquely triangular shaped cloves. But this year the Russian had the most mold, so I am hoping we have enough viable seed.
Earlier this spring I had a lot of stored garlic from last year’s bumper crop that was starting go soft. To not have it go to waste, I froze multiple pints of finely puréed cloves, as well as roughly processing two quarts of cloves mixed with olive oil and sea salt to store in the fridge for immediate use. The preserved garlic will now become a much needed fill-in for this year’s short harvest. Always pays to have backup in the pantry.
The shallot plot next to the garlic out on the Flats was also affected by the mold, as well as developing hard seed stalks. Some of it may be saved by drying out on screens in the pantry and used up quickly. A second shallot bed at the Mt. Erie garden was less affected by mold, so I am drying out these bulbs in the sun on a tarp, and covering them at night. It will be a short shallot run this year in the kitchen.
On the flip side of the rain issue, the early cabbages are now large and about to split, the cauliflower has been bountiful, and the snap peas have come in daily waves. And, where a bed of early onions got moldy and was pulled, new summer transplants of lettuces, bok choy and bulb fennel are taking hold, along with a second plantings of cauliflower and red cabbage. Keep planting and carry on.