I decided to make a traditional garlic plait from my homegrown garlic this year, because I could think of no better way to show off my efforts in the garden, even if only to myself.
Summer 2023 has so far been a wash out, and as Bean is set to break up from school today I have had no time to tend the garden due to a month of solid, heavy rain.
It has been easy to feel despondent at the lack of gentle garden pottering time that has been available to enjoy, but I have still been celebrating small garden wins, such as my garlic crop.
I set myself a small wish this year to grow enough garlic to plait and hang in my utility room, and today I have completed the braid for hanging.
I’m pleased with the growth on the garlic bulbs. They’re a good size and shape, and I think I lifted them at the correct time with the weather we had. Ideally I’d have left them in the ground another 2-3 weeks but after an unusually warm couple of weeks in early June we experienced a solid month of heavy rain and storms, which battered plants and left the ground waterlogged.
I lifted the garlic bulbs in less than ideal weather, with huge clumps of sticky wet compost and earth stuck to them, but after being left to dry for a day I tidied them up a little to begin the process of drying and curing them for storage.
It took two weeks for the garlic leaves to dry out and brown ready for longer term storage. As space in my small kitchen is at a premium I have decided to store the garlic in the cool utility room that adjoins it.
I looked at a few resources for plaiting garlic ready to store, but actually I disagree with hem all. I started off following the advice, but found a way that worked better for me about a third of the way in.
I started by gathering three bulbs and tying them together using one of the dried leaves. I think that gives a good foundation to add to. Once I got a few bulbs plaited together, however, I found that the thing that worked best for me was to add two new bulbs at a time, adding the stems to the centre ‘strand’ of the plait, and bringing one of alternating left and right bundles of leaves over to secure it. Once I had made that crossing of the bundles of leaves to secure the newly added bulbs I pulled on the stems of the new additions to the plait to nestle them tight against the body of the braid.
The resulting braid of garlic is secure and sturdy, the leaves are bound tight and the bulbs sit close to the braid. My initial braiding was looser and less well formed where I was adding just the single bulb per twist, and I prefer the sturdier feel to the braid as I found what worked better for me.
I finished by continuing to braid the remaining leaves and looping the excess back on itself to secure and to give myself a way to hang it from a hook in the utility room, ready to be admired, at least by myself.
The garlic I sowed this year was Solent Wight, purchased from The Garlic farm. It is a soft neck variety (essential for plaiting) and produced good size bulbs. It’s lifted a few weeks after a lot of garden varieties, so might have grown even bigger then the sizeable bulbs I managed if it hadn’t been for the very wet month we have had.