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Welcome to My Jungle - July 2017

It is one thing to see food in the produce isle, it is altogether different to see that same edible portion growing on the plant. I have worked with specialty crops much of my adult life, but I have never lost my fascination of plants that produce food. Who can't stare in awe at a tree full of peaches or smile in excitement when pulling up peanut plants to reap the hidden rewards.

I recently harvested garlic, both hardneck and softneck, and I felt that same wonder with every bulb the digging fork revealed. Garlic is usually ready to be harvested in early summer just after a few of the leaves have yellowed. To be more specific, harvest should occur when half of the leaves are still green. Since each leaf extends down as a wrapper around the cloves, the goal is to complete harvest before leaves totally senesce and cloves start popping out of their wrappers. Following harvest, bulbs should be allowed to dry in a well-ventilated room for about three to four weeks. I usually braid softneck garlic before curing. Hardneck, as you can guess by its name, has a hard scape running up the center of the bulb which makes braiding impossible. Softneck garlic is milder in flavor and typically can be stored for six to eight months at room temperature, while hardneck garlic is much more robust and usually starts to deteriorate after about three to four months. I check the bulbs regularly to cull out any cloves with signs of rot or discoloration.

Since garlic is a fall planted crop, I will be sure to reserve a few cloves of each to plant for next year's crop. So just like horseradish, garlic is a self-perpetuating plant that just keep giving and giving as long as you take good care of it.