You can’t go past garlic as a store cupboard essential; it’s a key ingredient in so many dishes from all over the world, particularly in Mediterranean and Asian cookery. There’s also something pretty special about having a big bunch of plaited garlic hanging in your kitchen within arm’s reach and watching it shrink over the course of the winter as you keep breaking cloves off to cook with.
If you spent lockdown gardening and cultivating a vegetable patch then you may well have harvested your garlic pretty recently. Once harvested you need to dry the garlic in a dry, well-ventilated spot (a greenhouse or shed ) resting in a single layer on a rack so air can circulate underneath with all the foliage left on. This should take two to four weeks. If you planted a softneck variety then once the leaves are dry, you can plait them and hang them up for all to admire.
How To Plait Garlic
- You’ll need at least 12 bulbs of garlic with the stems and leaves intact.
- Trim the hairy roots with secateurs or scissors.
- If you have uneven sized bulbs then work from big to small.
- Lay down two bulbs with the stalks crossing each other.
- Place a third inbetween them, on top, with the stalk running straight down the middle. Make sure they are packed tight.
- You can either secure these first three together with some kitchen string or jute gardening twine (wrapped around the stalks and knotted tightly) or you can take the lower-most stalk and wrap it around the others to bring it back to its starting position.
- Place a new bulb of garlic over the lower-most bulb (on one side) and run the stalk down the centre (grouping it with the stem that’s already there).
- Cross the lower-most stalk over the top of the two stalks in the middle, and move them over to the side that it came from to maintain the three distinct sets.
- Add another bulb to the other side and run the stalk down the centre, then cross the remaining single stalk from one side over the top of the two in the middle.
- Add a sixth bulb in the centre.
- Cross the stalks from the lower-most side over the top.
- Repeat this process of side one, side two, centre, until you have used all of your bulbs of garlic. You might want to stop at 12 though, or you’ll start to find it difficult to plait the thick bunches of stalks and keep it neat.
- Once you have all your bulbs woven in, continue to plait the stalks by crossing the bottom bunch over the top into the centre, then crossing the bunch from the other side over the top to become the centre, over and over to create your plait.
- When you have your plait at the desired length, you can fold the end of the plait over to form a hanging loop, and tie it off to secure it all in place with some string or jute twine.
Hang your bunch of garlic in a cool, dry and preferably quite dark place away from any damp. If you don’t have a suitable spot in your kitchen then a walk-in pantry or large pull-out pantry /larder cupboard would be ideal. Failing that, a dry shed is will do the job, although you’ll have to go further to grab your garlic and it isn’t so easy to show off your new plaiting skills and home-grown garlic.