If you are a fan of elephant garlic you may have wondered when to harvest elephant garlic. Elephant garlic is more closely related to the leek family than the garlic family and is much larger than other types of garlic.
Allium ampeloprasum L., or elephant garlic is also sometimes known as great-headed garlic due to the size of its head. Its bulbs can weigh up to a pound in weight and produce around 6 very large cloves. Milder in flavour than other garlic bulbs, its maturation and intensity of its taste is affected by its growth and harvest time so it is important to plant, feed and harvest at the appropriate times.
As with other garlic harvesting time can be tricky as the bulbs are under the soil so it is hard to determine the timing without uprooting the plant. Ideally the garlic should be harvested when the cloves are fully formed and have begun to separate. The skin should be papery and dry.
Elephant garlic is usually ready for harvesting around mid May to June but this will depend on the particular location in which you are in and of course your climate. As a general rule harvesting time is early to mid summer but the exact best time will also depend on the growth time of the garlic (i.e when you planted it), soil and other weather conditions.
To check for maturity in elephant garlic you should check a single bulb in a crop when about a third of the shoots (tops) are beginning to wither and have turned yellow/faded. If you wait too long and harvest when the tops have fully withered, you will find the bulbs will have probably split open underground which makes them difficult to collect and store. Their taste will also be affected by leaving it too late.
Harvesting too early and the bulbs will not have properly formed. This will result in a smaller crop and again the taste will be affected by harvesting before the crop is fully mature. Reducing watering towards the harvesting period will ensure the bulbs do not become waterlogged and allows for easier harvesting. Over watering can saturate the crop and in worst cases cause rot to set in if the water is allowed to become stagnant.
Remove the bulbs carefully from the soil when they are ready using a trowel or fork as necessary. Remove them from direct sunlight and avoid bruising them. The garlic should be cured for a couple of weeks in a dry, warm and aired storage area and curing allows the garlic to be stored well. Any excess moisture is allowed to evaporate during the curing period.
Once the garlic has been cured you can remove any excess dirt and cut off the roots and tops. The elephant garlic should then be stored in a cool, dry environment out of the sun.
Elephant garlic is ideal for cooking with in place of regular garlic and its size makes it useful for cooking whole as a meal accompaniment. Its slightly milder flavour gives it versatility for those averse to the usually stronger garlic taste.