Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How to Find & Harvest Wild Garlic on a Nature Walk

We are lucky enough to have a plentiful supply of wild garlic in our yard, however, as I walk down the bike trail and the nature trails around town I notice that there is plenty of wild garlic "for the taking" as well. Learning how to identify it and how to harvest it will help you in benefiting from this free gift from nature. I have included some photos of our wild garlic to help you and some simple harvest instructions. You will understand the instructions more by looking at the photos too.

All the plants of any given variety of garlic will come to maturity at about the same time, but some varieties will mature in the early spring and others not until mid-summer. Once any given variety of garlic starts losing its leaves and there are still eight leaves left (a week to 10 days from harvest), discontinue watering and let the soil begin to dry out some so as to make harvesting easier - it's easier to pull garlic out of loose soil than mud. In my case I never planted these plants and never watered them either - LOL - since I live in the Midwest where it has been raining a lot.

When your garlic is ready to harvest, there are several ways to do it. It is important to remove the garlic from the ground without injuring it as it is still a living creature and germs can enter through wounds at a time when its ability to ward them off is diminishing. If you have real loose rich soil, you can simply pull them up by their necks as long as doing so will not tear or damage their necks or roots. Few of us are fortunate enough to have that kind of soil. For most of us the best way is to use a shovel or garden fork and slip the blade down beside them and then work it under them and pry them up from the bottom. Be very careful not to cut the bulbs as you do this.

Then immediately take them out of the sun and into a cool shady place to cure out for a while.
Be very careful in handling the bulbs at this point and do not bang them together as that can cause them to be bruised and invite storage problems and ruin them for seedstock. Do not throw them onto the ground or into a wagon, place them down gently - you have spent a lot of time and effort to grow them right, don't blow it all now by handling them rough. Get them out of the sun as soon as possible as the sun can scald them or cause them to dry down too quickly and may result in problems.

I've included some picture of some of our wild is ALMOST ready to harvest!

If you are harvesting on public land be sure to follow the rules of wildcrafting - only take what you need and only "thin out" the gifts that you find. Do not take everything from one place.

Blessings & Health,

Kristie Karima Burns, MH, ND

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