Harvest garlic now as soon as the foliage has yellowed and died back ready to store and use throughout the winter.
The best type of garlic for storing is a ‘softneck’ type – once dried these will keep for several months, staying as plump and flavour-packed as the day you harvested them. ‘Hardneck’ varieties are said to have a superior flavour but don’t store as well, so it’s better to eat them fresh from the ground during summer. Keep an eye out for certified virus-free bulbs of both types of garlic arriving at the garden centre here in London shortly, ready to plant for next year’s crop.
For now, though, it’s time to concentrate on gathering in this year’s harvest. Once the foliage has died back, that’s your signal that the mature bulb deciding it's done its job for the year and is drawing energy back down from the leaves for winter hibernation. You can turn that habit to your advantage, as the bulb stays in a kind of suspended animation for months – perfect for storing to use later.
Lift the bulbs gently and leave with foliage intact to dry for a week, preferably on the surface of the soil in the sun. If sunshine is in short supply, just lay them on a tray in the greenhouse.
Once completely dry, take three bulbs with plenty of dried foliage and start plaiting the stems together, pulling the bulbs snugly into the main plait. Feed another bulb in every turn of the plait so you end up with a tightly-packed column of garlic bulbs. Once it's about 60cm long, plait the remaining foliage together and tie a knot in the end. Trim any straggly ends, then hang somewhere cool and dry and handy for the kitchen, so you can cut off a spicily fragrant bulb whenever you want.