Garlic: Tell me where the flowers are

If I had listened to the lady from customer service at Burpee, the garlic I planted last October would still be sitting in the ground shriveling up in the summer heat. I’ve grown garlic successfully for the past years but something strange happened this year. The garlic did not develop any flower tops, aka scapes. So I called Burpee where I bought the planting garlic last fall to find out whether this variety, Early Italian Garlic, might be a non-blooming kind (just like the rhubarb I have in the garden). The lady at Burpee first didn’t know what scapes are, and when I told her “The garlic doesn’t bloom,” she said “Don’t worry, just wait until next year.” – as if garlic was a perennial, which usually starts to bloom only in its second year. That much for help from the pros. It was hilarious.

But the garlic was fine. We harvested about 50 nice, plump heads. Now that they have cured for a few weeks in the shed, I need to think about storage. I am debating with myself whether I should keep a small supply for a couple of months and freeze the rest as unpeeled cloves, like I’ve done in previous years. Frozen garlic is not good to use raw, but that’s not a problem for me because I use most of it for cooking anyway.

Hardneck garlic, the type that is the best to grow in this area, does not store very well. By Thanksgiving, it is light as air. Storing garlic in oil is not an option because it can produce botulism, a serious food poisoning that can paralyze or kill.

I think I will compromise. Half of the garlic will go in the freezer right away, and the other half I will hang up in bundles in the basement until I find that the garlic does dry out too quickly – or until someone complains about the strong garlic smell in the basement.

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