Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Garlic Harvest and More.

Dear Folks,

I finally harvested my garlic this morning.  And they are looking great!  Both Regular and Elephant types performed well compared to last year - when it was so warm the garlic did not properly create the cloves.  This year, the extended rain etc. seemed to slow the growth down and I waited and waited and seemed to wait more for the scapes to appear to cut them off.  Scapes are the flower bud and you cut them off to force the energy back into completing the formation of the cloves in the head of garlic.

[Pictured - pulled from the garden - then rinsed and on a wire "hat" to dry in the shade.  You can easily see how big the Elephant is compared to the Regular.  You can see my trusty glass bucket I use to rinse the plants.]

Finally I got scapes cut off a couple of weeks ago (and still found some on the garlic I harvested today!) and let the plants do their final thing.

Some facts about garlic.

Here in the desert plant Garlic in October and no later than October 31st.  I usually get mine October 1st (one of my traditions) but with life getting in the way, I finally got them in October 8th.

Garlic needs ALL of the winter cold to properly grow and form the cloves.  Without a lot of cold you get large "garlic scallions" which taste great but do not form cloves and cannot be dried and stored.

I picked up both varieties at the Gilroy Festival last summer and stored them for planting.

Regular Garlic (Allium sativum) probably needs no additional details.  There are many varieties from pure white to purple, from mild to spicy in flavor.

Elephant Garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is a unique onion family member.  It is not a true garlic but rather a relative of the leek.  I like to explain leeks and elephant garlic this way:  A Leek is a Scallion on steroids (neither produce a bulb) and Elephant Garlic is a Leek on a whole lot more steroids to produce both cloves in a head and unique bulblets (see picture).

Elephant Garlic's flavor is far milder than regular garlic .  Also Elephant Garlic does not store as well as Regular Garlic, so while both are air dried in the shade, plan on using the Elephant Garlic sooner.

If you sun dry your herbs and vegetables, slicing either garlic for sun drying is an excellent way to preserve them longer. (You can use a dehydrator of course, but I like the sun - saves electricity.)

Planting and Bulblets.

When you plant in the fall, you are planting individual cloves, pointy side up, about 2 inches deep.  Keep the area weed free.  You can plant about 5-6 inches apart OR you can plant closer together and plan on harvesting a "garlic scallion" as needed through the winter.

In the pictures shown here - you can see two different Bulblets (sometimes called Bulbils.  Both garlics produce a side growth if in the ground long enough.   This first picture is regular garlic with a dark brown bulblet growing from the base of the garlic head.  It looks a lot like a clove.

In the next picture I show two different elephant garlic (light tan)  bulblets which grow out of the side of the elephant garlic and by the time you harvest they have usually separated from the "mother".

These bulblets can be planted instead of the dried cloves, however it may take two seasons for the plant to have sufficient energy to produce and form a head of cloves.

To add to the planting options, if you let the flower scape go to full flower stage, what you will see is a cluster of tiny bulblets and these too can be planted, too although they may not reliable grow.


Dry your garlic in the shade (I use the shade of my fruit trees - which also provides air ciruluation) for approximately 2-3 weeks until the exterior is papery (as you find them in the store).  That means they have lost enough moisture to store for use.

Saving and Re-Using

Like potatoes, when the heads are dry enough, you can also store one or two in cardboard in the crisper (away form moist produce) for planting in October.  As you can determine from the timing, Planted Oct 8 - harvest June 19th you need to plan on approximately 7 months, give or take, to harvest.  The all important times are:  Planting and cutting the scapes off in the spring.  Once the scapes are removed the plant will start to die back with yellowing leaves so about 2-3 weeks after removing the scapes, you can harvest and dry your garlic.


I also pulled another monster Chanatay Carrot from the garden.  These are amazing.  I wrote about them recently.  With life challenges I did not keep up with harvesting this wonderful variety.  The lucky thing for me is they still taste great even at this large size.

And one more from the garden.  My Caper is flowering now and also starting to produce berries - fruit.  These stunning flowers only last about a day.  You can see another bud just starting to open, showing the white edge.  Capers are "usually" the harvested unopened flower bud, preserved.  But some of my caper growing friends and I prefer waiting until the fruit forms and then harvesting and preserving them - more like an olive.  More "bang" for the effort.

I hope you are enjoying your garden's bounty in the kitchen.

You can find my helpful calendars and books on my website.

Have a great day in the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, June 17, 2019

July Planting Tips

Summer Greens
Dear Folks,

First I need to mention that I will be having cataract surgery near the end of June and into July - so I won't be posting much.  If you send me questions I will answer as soon as I can.

[Picture is My Summer Greens / Lettuce alternatives:  Sweet potato, Egyptian Spinach, Roselle, sorrell, basil, end of season celery  - see note below on growing summer greens.]

I also have a funny to share about the preparation for the surgery.  I started getting into texting my family a couple of months ago and am getting the hang of it.  The other day, though, I had the funniest auto-correct fail and have to share with everyone.

Texting to my sister:  "off to get my eyebrows for surgeries"
When she immediately responded with a "ha-ha" I looked at what I had typed!!!  LOL

Eye drops was what I was supposed to have typed (there are special post-surgery drops prescribed).

BTW my eyebrows are fine as they are, maybe could use a tiny bit of cosmetic plucking. :-)

Once our sunflowers really get going we look forward to the acrobatics of the Lesser Gold Finches - the Male here is upright, but he was just upside down on one of the flowers.


Most of the planting in July and August is by seed for fall production/harvest. Consider this: If you want pumpkins for Halloween, you have to count back 90-120 days for seeding in. If you do not have a bed prepared or in mind for planting now, get your bed(s) ready.

Beginning July 15th
Seeds Only Planting:

Luffa Gourds
Musk Melons
Squash, Winter       

Our Chocolate Flower is loving our weather and greats me every morning when I go out to get the paper with its floral cocoa scent and sweet faces.  Berlandiera lyrata is an edible flower. The Native Americans used the dried flower as a seasoning is foods like sausage.  I have some  of the cut flowers on our kitchen table so we can enjoy the aroma while having a meal.

    Sown areas need to be kept consistently moist and the seeds will germinate based on soil temperatures. [Cool weather seeds can be sown now and will give you a jump start when the soil begins cool later on.] Lightly cover with loose soil and loose mulch to keep the area moist.

    Sprinkle sown beds EVERY evening until you see them break the soil surface. Then you can start watering more but less frequently to encourage the roots to go down.
    Higher humidity can reduce moisture loss to plants, reducing watering frequency, but check with water meter regularly.  It is possible to over-water - then followed by under-watering - causing plant stress.
    Tomato plants are unable to set fruit when the Night temperatures stay in the 80s.  Maintain the plants through the summer and you will get a fall crop of fruit before frost.
    Sun damages plants in the summer time, as frost damages them in the winter time. As in frost damage, try to leave the sun damage at the top of the plant alone, if you can, as it protects the lower portions of the plant.  Pruning for fall can start at the end of August through the beginning of September when the monsoon ends and night time temperatures fall below 80.

Regular lettuce does not survive our high summer heat, but there are some fun alternatives, which are tasty and good for you.   Sweet Potato Leaves, Egyptian Spinach seeds can still be sown now, and Roselle leaves once your plants get going are wonderful as greens.  Some sources say sweet potato leaves are even more nutritious than the tuber. Regardless - at plant that produces edible leaves and tubers is a two-fer.

And don't forget "weeds".  Summer is the time for mallow and purslane (verdolaga).  Here is a nice article on the FREE food which may be growing in your garden.  Remember - NO pesticides or other chemicals - the weeds need to be as chemical-free as your regular garden produce.

Have a bountiful time in the garden!  

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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