A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I planted garlic and got onions... What?!

I know that garlic is supposed to be planted in the fall.  I know that.  Unfortunately, I did not get any in the ground last fall.  I have had some luck planting it in the spring. The result is typically much smaller cloves, but they are tasty just the same.  I hoped for the same result this year.  I decided that I could accept smaller cloves if I could store some homegrown garlic for use as the weather gets colder.  When the leaves began to fall over and die on my garlic, I took my cue to dig up the precious little bulbs to investigate my bounty.  They nearly all looked uniform in size and beautifully round.  I was excited.  I cleaned them up, dried them out a bit and brought them in the house to use and store in my cool cellar.  I began peeling one to use when I discovered a couple of fairly major differences about my cloves.

First, the paper wrapping was very different.  Instead of lots of multiple layers, it seemed to be one fused and tightly held layer, much like the inner wrapping of an onion.  Second, there were no divided cloves.  It was one solid ball, like a boiling onion.  How could it be that I had planted sweet little cloves of garlic and ended up with onions?  I cut into my little test bulb and tasted it.....Mmmmm... garlic-y!  As always, I did a little reading to see if I had discovered some freakish new plant or if this happened to other folks.  It turns out, this is not such an oddity after all.  In fact, some folks prefer to replant these "garlic rounds" or "ball garlic," citing that they produce larger bulbs the following season.   From what I read, they also seem to store better since they are more tightly wrapped. (I presume less moisture is introduced and lost.)

From http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com/growfaq.htm:
As garlic goes through the development underground from a clove to a fully cloved bulb, it first swells into a large round undivided ball with a lot of wrappers that are almost fused together. As it grows, it begins to divide and sub-divide into as many cloves as it can before the heat causes it to lose its leaves. If the temperature increases before the garlic has time to divide, then the result is a large undivided round. [...]  If replanted as is in the fall, they will form large fully divided bulbs the following spring. These rounds have the same taste and other properties as the clove they came from. Mild tasting garlics yield mild tasting rounds and strong garlics result in strong tasting rounds. For spring planting, rounds are your best bet to produce a good size bulb by the time early summer heat forces maturity.
That said, these little "ball garlics" make perfect sense in my garden this season.  Not only did I plant in spring, not allowing proper maturity, but it got blazing hot very early and stayed that way, spending the plant before it could develop divided cloves. This is one of the multitude of reasons why I LOVE gardening.  Every season I learn countless lessons and I grow as a gardener and a person.  In this case, I learned something new, tasted a new treat and can now make educated decisions not only about when to plant garlic, but also at what developmental stage I would like to do so!

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