Plaiting garlic

by Pippa Greenwood

We've had a mixed garlic harvest so far this year - the bulbs I planted in spring did nothing and were a total waste of time. They were probably the worst I've ever grown.

Pippa Greenwood plaiting garlicWe've had a mixed garlic harvest so far this year - the bulbs I planted in spring did nothing and were a total waste of time. They were probably the worst I've ever grown (or, dare I admit it, the worst I've ever seen).

However, the bulbs I planted in autumn are now plump, juicy and just itching to be eaten. We've already harvested and eaten some of them, which have been extremely well received. My family has been enjoying garlic butter, garlic-roasted vegetables, pasta sauce and some delicious garlicky home-made pesto.

But there's plenty left and it needs to be stored, so I have set to plaiting it. Yes, proper Frenchman-on-a-bicycle-style garlic plaits, and great fun I've been having, too. The first time I sat down to have a go, I was filled with trepidation as I'd assumed it would be tricky, but it's as easy as can be.

The trick is to ensure the garlic is dry, but still has flexible stems - sometimes garlic plants can have very tough, rigid flower stalks that make plaiting them difficult.

Start with three plants, plaiting their stems together tightly for an inch or two. Make sure the three bulbs are close to each other. Then add another plant to the plait, so its stem joins one of the other stems, and continue plaiting for about an inch. Repeat the process until your plait has reached a good length, and simply hang it up in a dry place, such as a shed, or kitchen. You can then pluck off the bulbs to use as and when you need them.

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Gardeners' World Web User 17/07/2008 at 18:29

Have just grown garlic for the first time, and bulbs are sound but very small (autumn planted). I shall persevere! Love your new book, Pippa - both practical and inspiring. Thanks!

Gardeners' World Web User 18/07/2008 at 08:57

Our garlic has flower buds on it now, is it normal to allow them to flower or should I cut the buds off?

Gardeners' World Web User 19/07/2008 at 09:56

I lifted my garlic last weekend and was delighted with the results. Out of two bulbs' worth of cloves I planted in October, I've now got 15 good sized bulbs and four smaller ones, as opposed to last year (which was my first attempt at growing garlic) when they were all rather small, though tasty. One odd thing is that two of the smaller bulbs haven't split into cloves - they're just little globes a bit smaller than a ping pong ball - even though they've had exactly the same conditions and treatment as the others!

Ah well, will just have to use them when I need a lot of garlic for a dish! :-) Oh, and Anon, I know I'm not all that experienced in the matter but I would guess that you don't want the flowers as they'll sap all the energy that the bulbs are storing. I personally would cut the flowers off and probably dig the bulbs up now - do both because even when the bulbs are out of the ground, the flowers can still draw energy from them as they're like little battery packs that don't need to be plugged into the mains (i.e. the earth)!

Gardeners' World Web User 19/07/2008 at 22:16

My autumn planted garlic is lovely, have dug up one bulb and plan to harvest all tomorrow as it should be dry weather. I always plait mine and hang it in the garage to dry. Have found that any left in ground until autumn begins to sprout over again. Also should not be allowed to flower

Gardeners' World Web User 21/07/2008 at 18:31

Hi there, I had a terrible rust problem this year for the biggest garic crop I have ever grown (we love it). SOme of the bulbs were small but other fantastic. I have been trying to dry out the garlic for ages now to plait it. The very centre of the stems are still moist, is it ok to plait them now? Also some of the crop have bulblets appearing halfway up the stem even though they are not in the ground, or are they flower buds? Just one more question does anyone have any experience of cold smoking garlic as I would love to know how to do it with a home made smoker - can't inevest in a Bradley yet? Many Thanks, Clogless

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