Braiding garlic helps it last longer in storage and is a more aesthetically pleasing option than throwing your bulbs in a mesh bag.
Braiding is a convenient and attractive way to bundle fresh soft neck garlic for both curing and storage, without buying, saving or storing the all-too-often used plastic bags. Braids afford efficient use of vertical space in storage, and they make an awesome gift for food lovers and fellow gardeners alike.
There’s also the convenience of being able to grab a clove or two whenever you need it and garlic that stays fresher longer.
There are many interesting ways to braid garlic. Some people add flowers to make it look prettier, or are braiding in different shapes.
Braiding garlic can seem a little intimidating at first, but once you get the basics down, you can make these fun ropes in no time.
Harvest the garlic
The exact timing of your garlic harvest will depend on when you planted your bulbs.
You can when that they are ready when the tops began to yellow and dry from the bottom up. You can stop watering them a week prior to harvest.
If you wait too long beyond this point, your bulbs won’t have as many protective layers around cloves, which means they won’t store well. At the same time, the remaining leaves will probably be showing yellow or brown tips.
Autumn-planted garlic is ready in early summer and spring-planted from mid-summer to early autumn. Try not to delay harvesting, as the bulbs open up and store less well if lifted late. Carefully dig up the bulbs with a fork.
Click here to learn more about planting your own garlic.
When to braid garlic?
When you harvest the garlic, if the bulb and top are fully intact, spread them out on a table in a dark, cool place, and allow them to air dry for about two weeks.
After harvesting your garlic, allow the stems to wilt for about two weeks or a few days, but do not allow them to get brittle-dry, before braiding. Freshly harvested garlic needs to wilt for a few days to make it flexible for braiding. Roots help the bulb to dry and can be left intact for the curing period.
This drying process is necessary to remove some moisture from the stalks so they do not spoil. However, if they dry too much, they will be too brittle to braid, so it’s a fine line.
Once your garlic is cured and dried, it’s time to braid.
How to braid garlic
Start by preparing your bulbs for planting by gently rubbing any big chunks of dirt from the outside layer, and trimming the roots shortly. This way the braided garlic will look prettier, and it will also prevent your garlic braids from shedding stuff all over your floor.
Then, pick three of the larger bulbs, and tie them together.
To make an attractive braid, you’ll need approximately 12 bulbs. As you’re sorting the ones that you’ll use, set aside the three largest bulbs to serve as the start of the braid. Lay them on a flat surface with one bulb in the centre, one to its left, and one to its right.
Next, start adding bulbs. Place the fourth bulb over the existing bundle, so it matches up with the centre bulb. Then use the excess twine to secure the fourth bulb to the stack to make it easier when you start to braid. Next, take two more bulbs and align them with the two diagonal bulbs in a criss-cross fashion.
Lay bulb five beside bulb four, aligning the stalk with the centre stalk again. Now fold the right-hand stalk over the two centre stalks to become the new centre. Pull the middle two stalks over to form the new left.
With all of the bulbs’ leaves lined up, it’s time to start the braid. Make sure that you’re grabbing the two sets of leaves for each section as you begin braiding. Take the two leaves from the right side and cross them under the middle leaves, so they become the centrepieces. Next, take the two leaves on the left and cross them under the middle leaves. Repeat the process one or two more times.
Repeat this sequence, alternating the side that you lay the bulbs on each time, and always aligning the stalk with the centre stalk. Note that the number of stalks you fold in the middle increases each time.
Once you’ve started the braid, you can add more bulbs. You should line the leaves up with the existing ends of the braids as you did with the second set, so one aligns with the left section, one aligns with the centre, and one aligns with the right. Start braiding again for one or two passes, and repeat the process until you’ve added all of your bulbs and you are happy with how it looks like.
Finish braiding and secure the entire garlic braid. After you’ve added all of the garlic, you should continue braiding the leaves until you get to the end. Use another piece of twine to tie off the end and secure the entire braid. Use a pair of scissors to trim the end of the roots so they’re even and neat — and you’re ready to hang your garlic braid.
Hanging your garlic braid
For the best appearance, keep the heads close together. To finish, braid the remaining leaves together, tie them with twine. And trim the ends. Store the garlic in a cool, dry place (avoid anywhere with lots of humidity, like a damp basement), or hang your braid in the kitchen. When you want to use some garlic while cooking, simply grab a bulb from the braid and leave the rest for later.
You can store garlic indoors for quite a long time, but how long depends on the variety you decided to grow.
Garlic is wonderful for adding flavour to any number of savoury dishes. You can roast it with tomatoes to make a delicious sauce, add it to pasta, soup, meat dishes, make garlic bread…the possibilities are endless! Garlic is also wonderful because it keeps well and can be enjoyed months after it is harvested from the garden.