If I see the words "fussy" or "difficult" attached to any plant description, it's not going to come home with me. I figure gardening is hard enough work on its own without adding any degree of difficulty points. However, it turns out I accidentally planted something that seems to be easy to grow, but allegedly is "tricky" to know when to harvest. 

 

I'd never grown garlic before this season, and didn't get it off to the best start, since I didn't remember to plant until well after the ground was frozen last year and wound up chipping loose a pile of dirt to cover it. I'm sure there may be some parts of the country where December planting is recommended, but this isn't one of them.

Nonetheless, it appears I didn't plant in vain. I'd been happy enough to see it come up this spring, but I figured the real test would be whether it turned out to be worth harvesting. But when I researched when to harvest it, I kept running into the word "tricky." Great. I'm used to growing veggies like broccoli, tomatoes and peas that give you obvious visual cues when they're ripe, right out there in the open, nearly shouting "Pick me!"  But since garlic bulbs are underground, you have to rely on different visual cues, like when about half the leaves have turned brown or yellow.

The kind I grew was allegedly an early harvesting variety, but they caution you not to pick it too early or else the bulbs might not be well formed and may not store well. Of course, they also caution you not to harvest it too late or the bulbs could split their skins, also a storage concern. How reassuring. Since the leaves had started to brown, this weekend I dug out a few to check, which seems the only way to really find out. They were on the smallish side, but fully filled in. So now I have to wonder whether waiting a bit longer will result in larger bulbs or overripe small bulbs. Hmmm.  I figure I'll just keep checking a few at a time.

And in the meantime, I'll be digging out not only garlic bulbs, but recipes for aioli, roasted garlic butter, garlic chicken, etc., since I'll have a bounty of bulbs that may or may not store well.  What's your garlic harvesting strategy? And even if that strategy is the grocery store, what's your favorite way to use it?