There can't be an easier crop to grow than garlic, nor one that brings as much satisfaction at harvest time. Stick some cloves into the ground in November, feed it a few times in June, and come July the dirt rewards you with fat glorious heads of Vitamin G. You just can't buy garlic like this. Well, not unless you know a garlic farmer.
Our goal has been to grow enough garlic to last us through to the next year's harvest. I think we got close last year, but our storage failed us. This year, we're taking a 5-day intensive class in root-cellar construction, and should have our own root cellar built by late September, ready to keep our garlic – and onions, shallots, squash, beets, carrots, and parsnips – safely through the winter.
We planted three full beds with garlic last fall, and today I pulled almost 200 heads. We've been adding new varieties each year. We started with German Extra Hardy our first year, and added Marino and Russian Red the following year. A local garlic grower hipped us to Elmer's Topset 2 years ago, and last year I ordered 3 new varieties from Big John's: Killarney Red, Romanian Red, and Metechi.
I wish I could give a detailed description of the flavor characteristics of each variety, but what I concentrate most on are the clove pattern, size potential, and keeping qualities. I think this fall we'll have to do a series of flavor tests so I can pretend a higher level of expertise in the future.
A few of the varieties we grow have the capacity to produce massive heads, but Elmer's Topset always seems to come out the winner. This is the largest of the heads I harvested today:
I'd also like to do a longer, detailed post on growing garlic for those of you that'd like to give it a try. Best of intentions, always. Stay tuned.