What to do when the garlic crop finally produces? Braid them, of course!
We’d been trying to grow garlic for several years, but Robert just hadn’t discovered the proper conditions or timing for them. These he put in the ground in North Carolina in the fall. By the time we returned in May, they were ready to be harvested.
They can be stored for six months or so under the proper conditions, but we still had far too many for our own usage, and I wasn’t sure where I had room to store them with the proper dryness and air required. Then I remembered something I’ve always been tempted to buy but the cost was always too prohibitive. The garlic braid is an attractive and great way to keep the garlic for months. Plus, I had enough garlic to make braids for my daughter and a couple of friends.
Here’s how we did it.
- Harvest garlic with leaves intact. Lay them in a cool and dry place–we used our porch and placed them on newspaper. We kept the fans on for several hours each day to make sure air was circulating.
- After approximately two weeks, the green on the leaves begins to brown. Robert chose the bulbs with the biggest bulbs for planting in the fall. The rest I prepared for braiding.
- Clean the bulbs. Remove any lingering dirt before you braid it. In some cases, you may be able to remove the dirt and other residue by brushing it away with your fingers. I used both my fingers and a slightly damp cloth. On some of the bulbs, I removed several layers of outer dry skin to get rid of dirt. Do not remove all the outer layers.
- Trim the garlic. There are usually long, scraggly roots attached to the bottom bulbs, so cut those to approximately ¼-inch. Also trim away any of the leaves that are scraggly looking.
- Soak the garlic stems. You want the bulbs’ leaves to be pliable so they’re easier to braid. There are two ways to do this, but most importantly, do not get the bulbs wet during this process. You only want the leaves damp enough to be flexible. I wrapped the leaves in wet towels and left for 20-30 minutes. I could have left them longer. Next time, I might try another method suggested in the directions I found online. Fill a bowl or sink with lukewarm water, and soak the garlic so just the leaves are submerged. Soak for 15-30 minutes until they are flexible.
- Select three largest bulbs and criss cross them. It is suggested that for the best braids, you use twelve bulbs. I used six in mine so I could make more. As you’re sorting the ones that you’ll use, set aside the three largest bulbs to serve as the start of the braid. Lay them on a flat surface with one bulb in the center, one to its left, and one to its right. The center bulb’s leaves should be pointed at you, while the other two’s leaves are crisscrossed over one another to form an X over the center bulb. It helps to secure the place where the bulbs overlap with a piece of twine. Make sure that the piece you use is long enough to knot over the bulbs with enough excess that you can secure additional bulbs that you place in the braid.
- Start adding bulbs. Place a fourth bulb over the existing bundle, so it matches up with the center bulb. Use the excess twine to secure the fourth bulb to the stack to make it easier when you start to braid. Next, take two more bulbs and align them with the two diagonal bulbs in a criss-cross fashion.
- Begin braiding. With all of the bulbs’ leaves lined up, it’s time to start the braid. Make sure that you’re grabbing the two sets of leaves for each section as you begin braiding. Take the two leaves from the right side and cross them under the middle leaves, so they become the centerpieces. Next, take the two leaves on the left and cross them under the middle leaves. Repeat using twine to secure as needed. I only used twine on the fourth bulb and then at the end.
- Add more bulbs. Once you’ve started the braid, you can add three bulbs. You should line the leaves up with the existing ends of the braids as you did with the second set, so one aligns with the left section, one aligns with the center, and one aligns with the right. Start braiding again for one or two passes, and repeat the process until you’ve added all of your bulbs. Or as I did, you can stop with six.
- Finish braiding and secure the entire garlic braid. After you’ve added all of the garlic, you should continue braiding the leaves until you get to the end. Use another piece of twine to tie off the end and secure the entire braid. I used the twine to help me hang the bulbs.
We returned from a week away from the cabin to find the garden overflowing with tomatoes! Last night, I made a gallon of sauce using only ingredients from our garden–except the olive oil! Basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, red and green peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Excellent meal.
You can access my garden pasta sauce in my book From Seed to Table. This week the book is on Kindle Countdown for $0.99. Download your copy by clicking here.