By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
Now that the stars of summer – tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants – are starting to exit the Saratoga Farmers’ Market stalls, it’s time to turn attention to one of our area’s more sensually spicy offerings: garlic.
Garlic is typically planted in mid-October after some frosts but before the ground has frozen. It appears in mid-spring as an early green garlic, in early summer as scapes, and in July as bulbs encased in papery outer skins. Underneath those layers are cloves that mellow as the months pass into a warm, rich seasoning for soups, casseroles, roasts, and veggie sides.
Garlic is available in late winter. It is also among the area’s easier crops to grow. If you’d like to try your hand at doing so, now is the time to start.
As you visit the Saratoga Farmers’ Market through October, buy some bulbs to eat and additional ones to plant.
At home, gently break your bulbs apart, separating the cloves. Choose the biggest cloves to plant and eat the rest. Create a space in your garden, where you can plant your cloves two to three inches deep, about eight to 12 inches apart. Place the cloves in the ground, bottom ends down, and cover them with soil. Then, cover these cloves with a thick layer of straw, hay, or even leaves to overwinter.
As the snow melts in late March or April, you should start to see green tips poking through the mulch. Pull the mulch off, and watch your garlic grow. Through April, May, and June, stalks will form and start to thicken. These stalks and the immature bulb beneath the soil are edible as green garlic, a taste of what’s to come.
Around mid-June, the winding, curvy tendrils known as scapes will start to appear on the plants. Cutting them off helps the bulbs grow. By July, the stalks will wither and turn brown. That’s the sign that your garlic is ready for harvesting. Use a garden spade or spoon to gently dig deep around the stalks to get to your bulbs.
Farmers typically cure freshly harvested garlic in dry, airy spaces.
After your harvest, go through your bulbs and save some cloves to plant for the next year.
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is Wednesdays 3-6 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at High Rock Park through October. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.