I am incredibly timely with my posts, since garlic harvesting season is already long past gone here in the North East U.S. Consider this a braid-off that you can take in and think about all winter so you’re super prepared next year. You are welcome.
While I let Andy have all the glory in growing the garlic, I am more than happy to help in the preservation. Andy likes preservation too but as we all know he’s often much busier building things like oh….our home.
This year helping in garlic preservation meant sitting outside on a hot but nice summer day and figuring out how in the dickens one is suppose to braid hard neck garlic so it could be dried and stored properly. Braiding regular garlic is easy – three strands, one over the other. Try that with hard neck garlic and you’re likely to threaten throwing all of the garlic over the side of the deck and blurting out some very lady-like language. I’ll get to that, but first we had to prep the garlic. Prepping for us was as basic as two steps.
We pulled off all of the exterior vegetation which gets a little slimy and gross by harvest season. This just makes it a lot cleaner, easier to braid, and better to store. Moisture is the enemy of storage and pulling that sheath off will help with the drying process.
I then snipped the roots, to clean it up some more. While this shows me snipping further down, I tried to keep each bulb around 1/2 to 1/4 inch from the base of the garlic. After this I cleaned out as much dirt as I could from the roots.
Braiding Hard Neck Garlic – French Braid Method (normally used for traditional garlic)
Simply put, I found I just couldn’t French braid hard neck garlic the same as traditional garlic. It just didn’t work so I knew I had to switch to a new method. Part of the moment I knew it wasn’t working was when I yelled “THIS SHIT ISN’T WORKING”. I took a nice deep breath, and continued in my attempt to do a full French braid though for blogs sake so you guys could see how it turned out. That’s love my friends, that’s love.
Here’s my one finding through any method of braiding: attempting to tie the garlic together using one of the outer leaves, as recommended on some sites, was a train wreck. Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but for me with our hard neck garlic is definitely was. Realizing I needed something stronger I switch to twine. Realizing this still wouldn’t be stable enough and I tied the plethora of tasty goodness down to our deck table.
I slowly started adding bulbs and braiding them in. The method should be easy enough except the stems are really tough to bend and the more I put together the harder it got. I guess it somewhat worked, but it looked terrible and I couldn’t get nearly as many bulbs together as one would like.
Would it dry properly like this? Probably. Did it look horrible? Well, sort of. The issue with this method is that it is was WAY harder than it needed to be. I pretty much required a year in the gym doing strictly upper body and abs to strong arm it into submission. That sounds like a fairly horrible use of a year, so I moved on with methods.
Braiding Hard Neck Garlic – Fishtail Method
Now this is most definitely the way to go about braiding hard neck garlic. I got far more bulbs into my row, evenly spaced, and it was so much easier. Yes it’s still a little tough but it’s much easier and the end product is superior. I did take one aspect of the first failure to this one – tying my garlic down to the table with twine. In the video I watched she didn’t, but her garlic also didn’t seem nearly as hard necked as mine. Mine was super super tough. I found tying it down to be really important to being able to braid properly.
To be completely honest, this method is really hard to explain using words and photos. Photos themselves were hard to get, since I really needed both hands to do this. Here’s an awesome video from Lil Frugal Gardner on YouTube, which is how I learned this method myself. She also has some other awesome videos so check them out.