July 25, 2014

Garlic Braid: Curing and storing Garlic

This is the story of our garlic after the happy ending that was the truly epic moment of harvest. As you might recall a few weekends ago we pulled over 30 garlic bulbs from our allotment. A fantastic experience as the abundance simply blew our little gardeners minds.

However, the high only lasted until I had carried the 30+ bulbs home. There, spread out on the dining room table, it hit me. What now? How to preserve and store our garlic, so the effort and hard work doesn’t rot away simply because I couldn’t stuff enough garlic into our meals?
Clearly it was time to expand the gardening experience beyond the digging and weeding. So I embarked on a research journey on how to cure (I learned that along the way, it means drying the garlic out, so the remaining sap from the stalk gets sucked up by the bulbs making them even more juicy) and store our garlic. My favourite resources were this blog and this famer. I watched the latter doing his thing with the garlic like he probably has done for the last 40 years over and over again.

I simply loved the garlic braid he created. Not only because ideally a braid solves the curing and storing problem in one go, but it also had me dreaming about Italian kitchen moments. You know the ones, where you no longer dig for garlic bulbs in dusty cupboards but snip them fresh off the humongous garlic bulb braid that is dangling above your stove.

So here is how I cure and plan to store our Garlic: First I cleaned the garlic by stripping off the outer layer. If the curing and storing would be done in two steps, this step isn’t necessary. However, I wanted to dry my garlic in a braid and ideally leave it stored like that. So I felt a bit of cleaning would be good. I also snipped of the roots. I didn’t get all of the garlic clean, as with some bulbs I had to leave a few layers to avoid exposing the bulbs.

Once cleaned, I organised the bulbs by size. Then I started braiding. I decided to go with the technique from the youtube video I found, because I loved how the farmer didn’t need many tools.

I started with two bulbs next to each other. Then I flipped the stalk of the right bulb over and under the stalk of the left bulb so it would point towards me, before I bend it up again between the two bulbs. Then I grabbed a third bulb and placed it in the middle of the first two. Starting from the right I began braiding – right-left, right-left – adding more bulbs as I went along. To add bulbs I kept placing them left and right in turns and aligned their stalks with the opposite stalk. Based on trial and error I came to the conclusion that 13-16 bulbs are a good number for one braid (depending on the size of the bulbs).

Once the braid was done I tied a garden string around the top of the stalks and hung it in our kitchen. Garlic is best cured and stored in a place that is dark (the bulbs can get sun burn, who would have thought!) and well ventilated to prevent rotting – fortunately that sounds just like our kitchen. We are only three weeks in but I can already see how the bulbs got bigger the dryer the stalks got. Garlic braid for the win so far.

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