Garlic: picking, selecting, storing
24 Oct 2013 10.01 am by Renny Wijeyamohan
If you’re a fan of Italian cuisine, have ever lived (and eaten) in Korea or are a student of anti-vampire folklore – chances are you’re familiar with garlic. This root vegetable, that’s often confused with a herb due to its medicinal properties or a spice because of its pungent flavour, is a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Manganese. Garlic is also known for a range of health benefits it can offer like reducing cholesterol, helping to prevent the incidence of some cancers and fighting infection – all great reasons to include this veggie in your home cooking.
Since garlic is a root vegetable, the edible bulb will remain underground throughout the growing process. This means that the visual cue for when to harvest garlic is dependant on the leafy shoots that emerge from the top of the bulb. Keep an eye out for when the leaves that make up the lower half of the leafy top go brown, while the leaves on the upper half remain green. This is the ideal time to harvest your garlic. Unlike onions, you don’t want to wait until the leafy tops brown fully and die because this means that your garlic will have matured too much and will no longer form a tight bulb (the cloves will separate and won’t store well).
To check if your garlic is the right size lightly dig around the bulb and assess how large it is. Garlic that is ready to be harvested can be anywhere from golf ball to tennis ball sized. A bulb that is ready for harvest should be full in appearance, well sized and have some wrappers that are partially decomposed. If the bulb is too small, wait a little longer before checking again.
To harvest garlic make sure the soil is loose before grasping it at the part where the leafy top meets the bulb. Then gently pull up to remove the garlic from the ground. Don’t wash the bulb post-harvest as this will increase the chance of rotting.
Once you’ve harvested your garlic, you’ll need to allow it to cure undercover for around 2-3 weeks. You can rest the whole plant on racks to cure or hang it in bunches of 10-12 until the skin develops its telltale crackly and dry texture. Whatever way you choose to cure your garlic, it needs to be stored in a well-ventilated dry and airy space away from direct sunlight.
When selecting garlic at your local grocery store or supermarket look out for garlic that is full-sized, firm and that has an unbroken skin. Avoid garlic with blemishes, soft spots or that has had its wrappery layers of skin removed – all these are signs that the garlic won’t store well and could be more easily infiltrated by bacteria.
After curing, you can trim the garlic bulbs down and store them. If the skin of your garlic is dirty, remove the dry, papery layers that are dirty, but make sure to leave the rest of the wrappers on. The wrappers help preserve the garlic cloves and will increase the amount of storage time of each bulb.
If you’ve bought your garlic from the grocery store, store it in a cool, dark place. Bulbs kept in this way will last for a few months. Since garlic keeps for such a long time, it’s not recommended that you refrigerate or freeze it – this will detract from the delicious garlic flavour that the cloves release.
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