My fantastic (garlic) braiding skills

Much neater looking

A week after pulling the garlic, it was ready to be braided and sorted. Braiding is not technically necessary, but it makes storing easier, not to mention warding off vampires, and it looks so much nicer. I like to hang the garlic on a hook, but it can lie on a clean table with enough room for air to circulate. To braid garlic, just grab three similarly sized bulbs and braid them like hair. I usually pull the really small bulbs from the stalks and use those first in cooking. Garlic flavor benefits from about two months drying time, but fresh is really good too. Either way the taste blows away anything bought in the store. Garlic will store safely for about a year in a cool place out of sunlight. (I’ve seen shorter estimates of anywhere from four to eight months so this may vary.)

This year I had a big enough crop to use some of what grew for the replant in October or for a year worth of consumption. I plan to try a different type of garlic next year so I probably will not replant from what I grew. I am going to double what I plant and build a new garden bed for garlic. The most important thing to remember about garlic is to never plant from bulbs bought in a grocery store. Almost all garlic sold in food stores has a disease that will transfer to the soil and make it impossible to ever grow garlic again without heavy pesticide use and soil replacement. I would even be hesitant to use anything claiming to be organic from a store. That is why I get my garlic bulbs from the Territorial Seed Company.

To plant garlic just pull a clove from a head of garlic and stick it root side down in the soil about 1 1/2″ deep. Each clove will become a new plant so a pound of garlic bulbs should be more than enough for someone to try out. I plant before winter because I live in the South and it only snows about a week. Garlic can survive over cold seasons, but if you live further north, I recommend planting in late February or early March, about a month or so before the last frost. You’ll also be harvesting later than those of us all the way down in USDA hardiness zone 7B. You may want to do research specific to your hardiness zone. Here are some general guidelines you may find useful.

My wife really liked this photo so here's a penalty to anyone who read the entire post

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About Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

This blog attempts to collect some of the things I try to create with food and booze. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. My hope is to entertain and maybe help people think a little harder about what they decide to eat and drink.
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80 Responses to My fantastic (garlic) braiding skills

  1. ChefMom says:

    I had no idea that bulbs at the grocery store can ruin your soil. (Not that I would have planted them, but still…) Great braiding skills – you never know when that will come in handy.

  2. They will look fantastic all hanging together. You must have a decent sized garden to get a great haul like that in. I’ve got some planted ambitiously in pots.

  3. Ginger says:

    Great tips and the photo is nice too!

  4. Laura says:

    I always learn so much from your blog. I love how you highlight the connection between food and where it comes from. Great post!

  5. midaevalmaiden says:

    Thanks for the imformative post with a great link too! I think I can plant garlic in my potatoe patch this October. Really I don’t know why I never did this sooner considering how often I use garlic.

    And I agree. Its a nice picture.

  6. Caroline says:

    Thanks for all of the tips, Greg. Great job with the braiding, too! Looks like quite the tedious process, but well worth it.

  7. Excellent braiding skills! Now I’m excited to see how you’ll prepare the bulbs later.

  8. fatisrecipes says:

    I love the simplicity and humbleness of the last photo. :)

    I just learnt a lot about garlic today, thank you. :)

  9. Am seriously impressed by the crop and the braiding! Here in Andalucia, we plant them over Christmas – can´t remember the exact date…but it´s tradition. And I love the photo – that looks like a very typical Spanish chair you´re sitting on!

  10. rsmacaalay says:

    I remember my grandma use to store garlic like this.

  11. Charles says:

    There’s a farm shop near me which sells fresh garlic – so juicy and fragrant compared to dry stuff, but it’s true that it’s not as strong. Your wife is right to like the photo at the end – it looks really cool. Thanks for the information about garlic – do you know approximately how long it takes for the full growing process, from planting to harvesting?

  12. I have never thought of braiding the garlic stralks for storing – very clever and pretty plus like you say so much neater. :-) Mandy

  13. I did read the entire post and am glad I always do because wow! Who would think so much goes into this. I found this very interesting!

  14. Very cool. Seriously, do you have a farmer’s market nearby or something similar..you could be selling those!

  15. SimpleP says:

    Seeing all of those hanging braids has gotta be satisfying. You’ve convinced me to throw some garlic into the beds next year.

  16. Thanks for this informative post on garlic. I’m going to order garlic bulbs from the Territorial Seed Co., I was going to plant some this year but wasn’t sure about the soil, when to plant, etc, etc. Looks like there’s more to it. Where did you learn to braid the garlic like that? I’m going to share this post with my neighbor, she grows garlic every year! :)

  17. Garlic will be in our garden next year – thanks for the tips! Your braids remind me of three tobacco braids my mom did several years ago. I don’t remember where she found her tobacco plant – it wasn’t grown for use! – she only had one! It was more a trip down memory lane for all the years her family grew tobacco as a cash crop. Her braids looked very similar to yours – except they didn’t have lovely garlic bulbs dangling at the end!

  18. Not sure about the ‘disease’ thing…never heard that, and I’ve been growing garlic for a loooong time. Most commecrcial garlic is sprayed after harvest to inhibit sprouting, though, so getting a good crop from it is doubtful. The first time I ever planted any – and this goes back 20+ years ago, in Oklahoma – I just threw some cloves in the ground from the store, and they grew just fine…

    There is an advantage to replanting from your own harvest, or buying seed garlic from a local farmer: it will be better acclimated to your soil/growing conditions. In a few generations, it will be truly yours… Territorial is a good choice if you don’t have those options.

    In the North, you can plant garlic any time before the ground freezes. Mine goes in in late October. The softnecks should be coming out in a week or so, the hardnecks by the end of July. Time for some Green Garlic Soup!

    Best thing about growing garlic – aside from eating it? Not even the Voracious Voles will snack on it!

  19. Very good information. I’m printing this off and filing it in one of my three favorite cookbooks. Guess what? As I write this, it’s raining!!! Our first good soaking rain since January!

  20. ChgoJohn says:

    What a great, informative post! I’ve always wanted to grow garlic but my dogs have always shown a particular fondness for my vegetable gardens. Even now, when I use only large pots for everything, my dog will steal my tomatoes just about the time they begin to turn pink. No, he doesn’t like tomatoes but he does enjoy a good game of keep away.

  21. spicegirlfla says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this post. As I mentioned before, my dad always grew garlic but I never got the details from him, nor thought I could grow it well down here. I’m going to order my bulbs and follow your instructions! And, btw, nice braiding skills there, do you do hair too???

  22. Karen says:

    Cool! Looks about enough to ward off some vampires. :-) Here’s to growing your own veggies!

  23. banbamama says:

    that must have been therapeutic. what a nice thing to do. I love the photo your wife took.

  24. Looks good! I might have to try this when I get a bigger garden. Love the lighting in the last photo. :) Just looks so natural, barefoot and relaxed.

  25. Kelly says:

    I loved reading this post and I can’t help but be envious of your warm climate… the possibilities for growth are endless. Did I hear Fig trees are in abundance too? Wow.

  26. Katherine says:

    Hi from the wife. Thanks for the comments on the last picture. It was about 95 degrees out that day, middle of the afternoon. Not pictured, the fan blowing right on him, which didn’t help too much. The one I really like just had his feet on the chair, a big pile of garlic and a giant jug of iced tea.

  27. Awesome!! I wish I had a garden to grow garlic in.

  28. Sara says:

    I had never thought of planting store bulbs; I figured they wouldn’t grow well but didn’t imagine it was so dire. Great idea to braid; should try it this year. Garlic grows so easily it’s almost all I planted! (And you can never have too much garlic). I get mine from the Maine Potato Lady (also organic), and since she operates out of Maine I know the garlic will think life in Massachusetts is a sunny vacation!

  29. The garlic braids look gorgeous and looks like a pretty zen thing to do in the afternoon!

  30. Brooklyn Cook says:

    Wow! I had no idea garlic was so simple to grow! Ah to have space to plant in… I have just barely enough room for tomatoes and greens and not a whole lot else. Someday…

  31. Thanks for the tips! I just recently inherited some elephant garlic from my Mom and wasn’t 100% what to do with it besides eating it! I can’t wait to plant my own in the Spring (since I guess I’m one of those Northerners you speak of way up in NE Ohio) :)

  32. Young Wifey says:

    Looks great Rufus! I’ll have to check out all the posts I’ve missed and your seed company too!

  33. djhcakes says:

    Now that is some great looking garlic! Nice braiding too! Love cooking with garlic!

  34. gisellecagli says:

    WOW!!!You even manage to braid your garlic. I have to struggle to keep my herbs fro drying out!!!!

  35. Seeing this photo makes it official. You are now a southern man. What gave you away? The shoes off, int he garage.. working on something LOL. I love that Katherine took this photo. Your braiding garlic skills are very good and I’ve learned a lot from this post about garlic. Great job on this :)

    • katherine says:

      Kay you should have seen the photos with the fan and the iced tea! He wouldn’t post those. Something about not wanting a close up of his leg I think. It was a cute shot! It was a close up of the garlic and the tea and his leg from the knee down in the back.You might have been able to see his hands braiding too. Although, who knows the traffic to our site if we did post that … I don’t think our server could handle it.

  36. martko1964 says:

    Nice job. Garlic looks great.

  37. How big is your garden?

    • Hmm, let me think. I have a small spice patch about four by four feet, then a stretch that’s about 16 or 20 by 4 feet wide. I’ll have to eyeball it better. My entire yard is only a quarter acre. Lots of spices in plants.

  38. Great braiding skills! Does your wife let you braid your hair? :) And I have to agree with your wife, that is a very cool photo.

  39. no freakin way! You continue to amaze me. I mean come on- you can braid garlic too? Is there anything you can’t do! WOW! I am growing garlic in my garden too but its not quite ready. When it is can you come and braid it for me! LOL!

  40. That was really helpful and informative
    it looks like alot of work but well worth it :)

  41. I had no clue what goes into growing garlic. This is totally eye opening. What an amazing process…I am so impressed by your patience for this. I think I would be pulling my hair out after the first five or so! So amazing! The garlic photo is stunning!

  42. Tiff says:

    I wish I grew garlic. Or basil. Or cilantro. Or anything.

  43. Robin says:

    lol! Well, I read the entire post and thought it was a pretty good photo rather than a penalty.

    I’ve been thinking about growing garlic (since I use so much of it — all those vampires here in the north, ya know). I appreciate the tips and links. And those braids? Well done!

  44. I braid my onions, but with the Vermont climate my garlic never gets quite so amazing as to be braid-worthy. I have garlic braid envy. You must be in a warmer, gentler climate than here. Obviously so since you’re making blackberry jam too. Double envy! In august, I’ll revisit the blackberry jam when I put on my armor and go brave the blackberry patch.

  45. eva626 says:

    LOL great photo!!! id pay your wife any day to make you post a photo like that here!

  46. We get a fair amount of garlic from our CSA so now I have learned how to braid it for storing! Thank you. Great post and photo!

  47. Never heard of braiding garlic…just my twin daughters’ hair. : ) Very interesting. And the photo was very cool. : )

  48. ....RaeDi says:

    I’ll take the penalty, it is a nice picture and I love it that you have given us directions for growing, braiding and I did not know you should not use store bought garlic to plant, that is good advice…. we just talked about putting in another garden next year, we have all the above ground gardens and such and I had told T I wanted to grow some garlic, we go through so much.
    This is the first year in years that we did not put in a garden, we will be traveling some this summer off and on for hopefully weeks at a time and we felt the garden needed more attention, so I love seeing the gardens and what comes from them through blogs like yours! ….RaeDi

  49. wee eats says:

    they’re beautiful! ;-)
    i’m so jealous of your garden

  50. Lovely blog! I can’t resist adding my two pence worth here….. hope you don’t mind….Garlic in England is planted in December, short cold days and long nights. It needs a good long period of cold in order to trigger the division of the cloves, otherwise you just get a single bulb. I once planted garlic in the Spring not knowing this and got lots of single cloved bulbs, with a very hard exterior skin. I looked it up and the books say that garlic needs about a month of cold in order to bulb up. In very cold climates protect the bulbs with a fleece cover or mulch. I have heard of people putting their seed garlic in the fridge to trigger the bulbing process before planting. Ours has suffered a little because of the drought earlier this year… but we have managed to pull a little early purple already.

  51. Not too long ago I read a beautifully written book about growing garlic and living on a small farm in New Mexico – A Garlic Testament by Stanley Crawford. It’s part memoir, part farming advice. If you haven’t seen it, I’m guessing that you would enjoy it.
    Love the photos! ~Nancy

  52. Tiam says:

    yes, your skills are fantastic. i dont even think i’m able to braid garlic !

  53. Soooooo….I’ve been watching my first ever bit of garlic grow these past couple of months here in NC. How in the world do I know when to pull it up? You seem to be the master at this garlic brading, so I’m sure you could give me tips! Great post by the way. Glad you found me earlier. :)

    • After the scapes have come up about 3-4 weeks depending on the temp. Pull it when there are only 2-3 green leaves left on each stalk and all the others have turned brown. Check out the photos and the last few garlic posts I did for more info.

  54. Yuri says:

    I agree with Katherine: that is a GREAT photo! So cool that you grow your own garlic. I am very curious about black garlic, why don’t you try it and tell us how it goes? :D I should get some seeds for my dad too.

  55. This is awesome! Do you have a small farm that you grow this on or do you just do this in your garden?

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  57. Hi Rufus,
    Nancy from Spirit Lights the Way blog suggested I read your post on garlic :) It’s been really helpful – thanks.
    I tried to grow garlic this year and my attempt was pretty dire along with my plaiting techniques!
    I grew my garlic in pots – not sure what went wrong. I wonder if you have any suggestions please
    http://pigletinportugal.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/growing-garlic-in-pots-%e2%80%93-success-or-failure/
    Any suggestions appreciated as I am going to try planitng again this November.

    • Unless you use really big pots, I would recommend planting garlic in the ground. I use a compost of grass clippings, vegetable rubbish, ash and leaves to fertilize the soil each year and plant around October. I do live fairly south so plant when fall begins in your region. Remember to use quality garlic cloves from a trusted source to keep from spreading a soil disease found in most garlic at the supermarket. Other than that water lightly until shoots come up, about a month after planting then let the garlic be until spring.

  58. rutheh says:

    I read the entire post and was rewarded with the excellent shot of your braiding the garlic. Nice light. Found this in my unread mail and am so glad I did!

    My brother grows several varieties of garlic in Okanogan WA and sends me a box with holes punched in it, as if there were an animal inside, trying to breathe. Ahhh, garlic :-)

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