Thursday, July 2, 2009

Braiding Garlic

Jamey pulled our garlic the other day. We found that the right time to pull it is when some of the leaves/stems are turning brown, while most are still green. Other years, we waited until the stems were all brown. The bulbs with all brown leaves had more cloves that were already separating from the bulb and tended to sprout faster. If some of the leaves are still green, the bulbs' papery covers are more intact, keeping the cloves from splitting and sprouting as soon. I still have a braid hanging in our kitchen from a year ago. For that braid I used all bulbs with the paper still intact and they are still intact today.

When I tried braiding garlic for the first time last year, I was a bit disappointed by instructions I found on line. Maybe there are better ones out there, but I couldn't find them. It took some trial and error for me to figure it out. My braids certainly aren't perfect, but they hold the garlic together well.


Today I am writing for you what I wish I could have found- instructions with pictures (I'm a visual learner).

Braiding Garlic

Start by cleaning as much dirt as possible off of your garlic. This may mean peeling off the very outer layer of paper.  Using a scissors, trim off the roots.  I use about 15 bulbs per braid, but you can make them any size.

*Update 7/17/09*: It was two weeks ago that I braided my garlic (seen in the pictures above and below). They are holding together well, but the braid does not appear as tight as it did when I first braided them. As they dried, the braids loosened. Everything is still holding together fine, it's just the visual appearance of the braid that has changed. To maintain a tight-looking braid, let your garlic dry out for several days and braid them when the stems have gone all brown. This is what I did last year- see photo here.

garlic cleaned with roots cut off, ready for braiding

Choose three bulbs and lay them out in front of you with the leaves pointing toward you. (I find that standing at an outside table works best- this time we used two saw horses and a board.) Put the bulbs together and point the three stems in three directions- one straight toward you, one down and to the left and one down and toward the right, crossing the ones going left and right.

Now, the rhythm of this goes something like this... 1) add a new bulb, keeping it tight against the other three and placing it's stem in the middle with the stem already pointing toward you. 2) cross the left stem over and into the middle (as if you were braiding hair), making sure that where it crosses over is right up against the bulbs 3) add another bulb, keeping the bulb right up against the others (even over-lapping a bit) and add it's stem to the stem(s) in the middle


4) cross the right stem(s) over and into the middle 5) add another bulb adding it's stem to the middle group 6) repeat steps 2-5 over and over. You cross over from the left, add a new one to the center, cross over from the right, add a new one to the (new) center, cross over from the left, add a new one to the (new) center, cross over from the right, etc.


The key is to add each new bulb's stems to the middle each time, remembering that the middle group of stems is always changing- you are not repeatedly adding the new stems to the same group of stems.

Once your braid is long enough or you've run out of garlic, continue to braid the stems just as you would hair until you run out of stems or until it's long enough for you. Tie off the end tightly with twine. You can also tie the stems tightly just below the bulbs (where the bulbs meet the stems) to keep them tight against each other.




We used a couple different kinds of garlic together in these braids- some hard necks and some soft.

I really hope this was helpful and not too confusing. If you find that you catch-on midway through a braid, take it apart carefully and do it over- it will be worth it. These three braids we hung in our kitchen. They last all year long. As you need a bulb, just snip it off, close to the bulb, starting from the bottom of the braid. Once you've used all the bulbs, you're left with a very pretty dried braid. Perfect for turning that scarecrow of yours into a female scarecrow:-). Pin It

35 comments:

  1. This is lovely. You inspire me to grow garlic again.

    Aunt V

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  2. Awesome post! It was VERY clear...I am a visual learner too...big time. Reading directions just makes me frustrated. Thank you for this...and next year, when I grow garlic, I'll know how to braid it. Good job!

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  3. This is so, so helpful! I need to go check my garlic now.

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  4. So helpful! My garlic isn't ready yet, but now I'll know how to store it. Thank you!

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  5. I did try this after reading your post...but sadly I waited too many days after harvesting my garlic.... but next year...look out....I'll be giving away some lovely braided garlic as gifts. Thanks for the post.

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  6. Do you have any problems with your braids molding? Most people say to dry the stems for a couple of weeks first. I planted garlic this time for the first year, and I'm gonna harvest mine soon.

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  7. Tammie, This is my second year braiding garlic. Last year I braided it several days after it was pulled- not really on purpose, it's just how it happened. So, the stems were drier when I braided them and I had no trouble with mold. This year (as you read above), I braided them right away. So far, no mold. I do have them hanging in our breezy kitchen, though and because the stems were thick and green I wasn't able to braid them as tightly as last year. Maybe more air is circulating around? If you are concerned about mold based on where you are going to hand your braids, I would recommend letting them dry out a bit first. Good luck and happy braiding:-).

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  8. I am so glad I found your site! I just pulled up garlic for the first time and have been overwhelmed by the amount of confusing info on what to do. Thanks for taking the time to provide us visual learner types with awesome pictures!

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  9. What variety of garlic do you plant?

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  10. Anonymous,
    I am a little embarrassed to say this but, we have no idea what variety it is. We ordered garlic from a catalog (we use several) a few years back and we've been saving cloves and replanting them each year. Whatever the variety, they produce large cloves with a tinge of purple on the paper skin closest to the actual cloves. I'm sorry we can't be more specific!

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  11. Thank you for your pictures and instructions. I just harvested my garlic earlier today. Will save a couple of bulbs to plant again in Oct. so that they will be ready for pickle making next year.
    Does it matter where you store the braids? One in the kitchen, the rest in the basement - ours is dark yet dry?
    Pam

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  12. Pam,
    In our experience, if the garlic stems are pretty well dried before braiding, the kitchen is a great place to hang them. I would avoid a basement unless it is free from humidity. If the stems aren't completely dried and you stored them in a damp place, you might get mold. Upstairs in a closet might be a better option, anywhere where it is nice and dry and doesn't freeze. Happy braiding:-).

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  13. headed out to braid our garlic right now & googled for images so I could know what to aim for. SOOOOO glad I found your blog. we have a LOT in common, I can tell. I'll read through more...

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  14. I found your blog today through a comment you left on Homestead Revival. I was reading recent posts, when I saw this lovely picture of braided garlic. I just had to see how it was done! Thanks for the lovely pictures! I hope I can find this again when I get around to planting my own garlic.

    Bethany

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  15. Thanks for the info. on braiding the garlic. I am going to try mine now. This is the first year I have done harvested garlic. Can you tell me what I need to do to preserve some to plant in the fall?

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  16. Anonymous, We plant our garlic in the fall. When it's time, Jamey just snips a couple bulbs off a braid in the kitchen and plants the cloves:-).

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  17. Thanks so much for the detailed directions, I had no idea how to do this!

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  18. I feel like a ding dong...I've been trying to do it backwards and wondering why they fall apart! Thank you!

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  19. You have inspired me to grow garlic. I live in North Texas, is it tool late to plant it for pickles this summer?

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  20. Becky,
    I'm not familiar with the Texas growing season, but I did find this article- I hope it helps:-)...

    http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/oct03/2.htm

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  21. You have pickled beets ?!! I'll be right there as soon as I find out your name :) Now, must search site, to find pickled beet info ! Thank you for the garlic instructions !

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  22. It looks really nice and very decorative, but is it really important to store it this way? What if you stored it in those hanging 3-tiered wire things so that it would be well ventilated?

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  23. Anonymous,
    I don't think there is anything special about braiding them in terms of how well they keep. It's just a space saver that happens to look nice:-).

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  24. Thank You!! Can't wait to try!!!

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  25. HOW AND WHEN DO YOU PLAT GARLIC? I WANT TO GROW SOME,PLEASE AND THANK YOU FOR IN PUT

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    1. Planting and growing garlic is fairly simple. When you plant, you put in the ground one clove of a garlic head. This clove will grow into an entire head. Plant your garlic in a sunny place about an inch deep in good soil, with each clove being planted about 4 inches apart. We plant our garlic in the fall, generally sometime after the first frost but before the ground gets hard. Then we cover it with straw and in the spring, the cloves will begin to sprout and grow. You can plant garlic in the spring as well, but often the heads are smaller. I don't know where you live, so you might want to do a search on line to find out the best practices for planting garlic in your area. Garlic is ready to be pulled when the "leaves" begin to brown and fall over. Good luck!

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  26. Thank you for the tutorial , I can not wait for my garlic to be ready to harvest . I have a small patch but should have enough for a couple of braids. i planted last fall around Oct. and it is doing great knee high and good strong stems. I planted them through a weed block. I had to watch for the sprouts to guide them through . This seems to have worked very well. No weeds and now they also have a covering of leaves that will help to keep them from sunburn. I also planted my onions this way and same results.
    thanks again
    Eddie

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  27. Inviting you the Carnival of Home Preserving on my blog today and every Friday. Hope to see you there. Laura Williams’ Musings http://laurawilliamsmusings.blogspot.com

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  28. Hi Jane, I am your newest follower! I happened upon your blog while looking for a photo of braided garlic. There I found your great tutorial. I'm publishing a post on planting garlic tomorrow morning and linked to your blog after I'd written my own garlic planting guide.(mostly so people could see your beautiful blog!) I hope you'll stop by. I know I'm going to enjoy following your blog. You've got so much information there!

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  29. First I am going to grow them, the I am going to braid them (like the ones above)

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  30. I live in the desert and our planting season is different from others. I'm assuming that garlic would not do to well in our summer heat. Can you grow them in large pots?

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    1. Wow, I'm sorry, but your planting zone is one I know nothing about! I would suggest determining your plant hardiness zone (via google) and then search for growing garlic in that zone. Also, local nurseries might be able to tell you if/how it grows in your area. Best of luck and sorry I wasn't more help!

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    2. you can plant them in the desert as long as you plant them in the fall, mulch them well for winter with straw (depth is dependent upon how cold you get in the winter, if you live in the high desert then i would surround your large pots with bales of straw and at least a 6 inch cover on the top of the soil) - uncover them in early spring and you should have garlic ready to harvest by late June..just watch for the plant to fall over and have about a third of the leaves brown.

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  31. Garlic thrives in Egypt, Turkey and Greece (think of Mediterranean cooking!) so should have no problem in desert conditions. You may need to water in the growing season if it is very dry, but it loves the sunshine. I read that it likes some cold to form large bulbs. I grow a good crop in a gloomy damp area though, so there is hope! I like to hang the braids in the kitchen so people can see how clever I am (?).

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Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

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