Things were a bit of a muddle here last autumn. And so I must confess to not being entirely sure which garlic we’re growing this year. It’s also the first time that we’ve grown garlic, so another learning curve for us.
I’ve become fairly certain that it is a hardneck type of garlic, as will become clear, and that turns out to be the most important thing. Although I’m almost sure that it is variety Purple Wight… which should make the bulbs tinged with purple when we harvest them later in the summer.
We bought the bulbs on a visit to Stroud farmers market last autumn, from the Garlic Farm stand; lovely plump bulbs for planting.
In November, we split the bulbs into separate cloves, and planted 5-6 cloves separately in each container, in tall pots full of compost. These we overwintered in the greenhouse, where they produced firm green shoots early in the year. Then once the ground began to warm up, we hardened them off, then shook the garlic plants out of their pots.
The roots were incredibly long, and I separated each plant and cut its roots to leave about 4 inches of length. Then we planted them in a row in the newly rotivated vegetable bed, where they have been growing quietly all through the spring and early summer.
We were slightly alarmed to see the long curling neck that began to emerge on each plant, and I rushed to the internet to find out whether our garlic was going to seed. It was a relief to discover that hardneck types always produce this stalk, known as a scape. This will indeed carry the developing seed head.
In order to focus the plants’ energies on fattening the bulbs underground, rather than producing seed, it is recommended to cut the scapes off once they have formed one or two loops. There even appear to be a lot of recipes for cooking with these scapes, which are accredited with a milder flavour than the bulb.
We have decided to leave one or two in place, to harvest seeds to plant next year. And I look forward to tasting the rest when we pick them in a week or two’s time.
Garlic: Purple Wight?