Last weekend I pulled our crop of garlic. I’d grown the odd bulb before, but never in any sort of numbers. Garlic has got to be the easiest thing to grow, ever. Just break up a shop-purchased bulb and pop each piece into the ground, pointy end up. And then forget about them. That’s it. Seriously. And pests don’t find it all that tasty, so it acts as a repellent for your other plants too. So over this recent winter, I dropped heads of garlic in wherever I had a few spare centimetres of space, which meant about 60 bulbs that needed something done with them all at once. But what to do? Well, as an ex-hairdresser the answer was obvious. Braid them, of course!
I let the garlic dry outside for the week undercover and protected on a table. Then, (and trust me, this next bit is best done outside too) I trimmed the roots from each bulb with scissors and gave them a gentle dust off with a pastry brush. You want to remove as much dirt as possible without damaging the fine, crunchy outer layers of your bulb. A heap of dry debris, dirt and muck ended up in my compost bin instead of the kitchen floor. Next, I sorted the bulbs into two piles – large and small and took them inside. Armed with a pair of scissors, some kitchen twine and muscles, it was time to begin.
First, gather 3 biggish bulbs and tie together with the dried ‘stalks’ pointing towards you. Using a simple plait technique (right over the middle, left over the middle, right over the middle, left over the middle…you get the drift), add in a new garlic to each middle strand. To fill gaps, I sometimes used two smaller bulbs. Keep the plait as tight as possible, which means working slowly and using those muscles. As your braid grows, it gets tougher to work with and some of the stalks aren’t as pliable as others – but they can be coaxed!
When I finally ran out of garlic bulbs, I tied the end tightly with more twine, and added a loop at the back to hang in the kitchen. Looks pretty, huh? Apparently, if we keep it away from the steam of the coffee machine, it’ll last for months. Yeah, it stinks a bit. But I guess we don’t have to worry about vampires for a while…