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Q. The garlic that I planted last fall has produced strong, tall plants with curly flower stems (scapes) that I was told to cut off and use. I did this last month, and now I’m wondering how to tell when it is the right time to dig the bulbs.
A. Garlic bulbs are usually dug during the second half of July, when roughly half the top growth has turned brown. The timing will vary with the garden’s location and growing conditions. Spaces fully open to all-day sunshine will produce matured bulbs earlier than partly shaded plots. Let the state of the stems and leaves be your guide.
It’s a good idea to dig a trial bulb or two ahead of harvesting all of them. The bulbs should have well developed cloves, clustered tightly together, each enclosed in its own papery cover.
When the bulbs are left too long in the ground, the cloves begin to separate. These overgrown bulbs don’t usually store well.
Q. My garden’s garlic patch will soon be ready to dig up, while I still have useable bulbs left from last year’s harvest. I’m not sure whether to discard the old bulbs or find some use for them
A. Unless the cloves in last year’s garlic bulbs are almost completely dried out, I’d use them. The way I use garlic “extras” is to peel the cloves, slice them in half to remove the bitter core, drizzle them with oil and roast them in a heavy, covered pan.
I don’t roast the cloves at the commonly recommended high heat. I roast them at around 325 F only until they have thoroughly softened. I don’t want them to burn.
Cooled, the roasted cloves can be kept for two weeks in the fridge. Mine never last that long. The softened cloves have many uses — in salad dressings, blended into mashed potatoes, chopped or sliced into vegetable dishes, soups and stews.
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