HURRY up, I found myself needlessly shouting at my garlic.
Sharing a raised bed with the Japanese Senshyu onions, which desperately needed to be picked, I wanted the whole bed cleared.
My autumn-planted hardneck garlic, Lautrec White, was nearly ready – its outer leaves were turning yellow – but I could have left it another couple of weeks.
I probably would have got slightly bigger bulbs if I had, but c’est la vie.
It’s a classic variety from South West France, producing white bulbs with deep pink cloves.
There’s two types of garlic – hardnecks produce scapes, or flower stems which are lovely to eat, and quite a delicacy in France, but the bulbs don’t store as long as softnecks, which don’t have scapes.
Harvesting garlic is easy.
Loosen the bulbs from the soil with a trowel or fork, away from the bulbs, in case you damage them, as they won’t store then.
Clean off any excess soil and lay the bulbs somewhere warm and dry before storing them.
I usually use greehouse staging with a metal rack for good airflow in the conservatory.
(It keeps vampires and unwanted guests away).
Once the stems are completely dry, gently brush off any dry soil with an old toothbrush and trim the roots, but don’t damage the basal plate.
I’ve never mastered making a traditional plait and usually just tie them, several bulbs together, with twine.
They keep for up to three months in good condition in a cool, dark place.
If you still have some left at the end of that time, lightly roast them with olive oil and freeze in ice cube trays, then empty them into freezer bags – this should see you through the winter.
A real Japanese weepy
THE overwintering onions, due to the terrible spring, were not brilliant this year.
I always grow them, as I like to see all the produce beds doing something in the colder months.
Planted last autumn, the Japanese Senshyu variety gets going before winter strikes, then starts growing again in spring, to give a much earlier crop than spring-planted varieties.
Only of course, we didn’t have a spring this year, so they lost a good six weeks of growing time and haven’t put on a great deal of weight.
They still taste good and there’s an eye-watering amount to process. Only this year, they were excruciating. The small size of the bulbs has meant the sulphur compounds (which give onions their distinctive raw smell) has been concentrated.
They’re supposed to be mild – but this year, they’re not.
With these onions, you can eat the stems, rather like a massive spring onion.
They don’t keep well, so I tend to cook a batch of them, softening them with half butter, half olive oil.
I then pack them in boxes to freeze, where they make a great base for anything savoury – especially French onion soup.