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Monday, August 21, 2023

How much garlic do you eat in a year?

The last week or so have found me at work in the garden bringing in some of the early harvest. My big chore on Saturday was to dig this next year's garlic.

Last October I planted 99 cloves from the 2022 garlic harvest. On Saturday I harvested 94 heads/bulbs of garlic. Either 5 heads have eluded me and will send up shoots in spring, or 5 cloves rotted in the soil over winter. Despite the loss of 5 heads of garlic, the 94 is pretty good, I think.

For the past several years, I've increased the number of garlic cloves I plant by about 10 each year. So my plan is to plant about 110 cloves this October. That will take about 12 or so heads, leaving me with around 80 heads of garlic for this fall, winter, and spring. 

The heads are not large ones. For this next year, I plan on amending the soil more completely before planting and increasing the spacing between cloves. I hope this will produce larger heads next summer, which would mean each head would cover more of our meals.

We still fall short of my goal to grow our year's supply of garlic. The 2022 garlic lasted until the end of May, at which point I bought garlic powder. So, how long will 2023's harvest last us? That's a good question. I hope the 80 heads last through June 2024. That will move push us closer to the goal. Perhaps in another couple of years we'll be able to grow as much as we need for a year.

It's interesting to think in terms of a year's supply of any one food, in relation to what we grow. In modern times, most of us only think about how much of any one food we may need for a week or perhaps for 2 weeks. A century or more ago, estimating on a year's scale is something most folks always did, at least with some foods. 

I'm guessing my family goes through 2 of my smaller home-grown heads of garlic per week. That would be 104 heads per year. It sure sounds like a lot. But maybe it isn't. How's does that compare to how much garlic you and your household use in a year? Do you have any foods that you procure just once a year, necessitating the estimation of a year's consumption?


  1. My garlic is not quite ready to harvest yet - if I dig it up now, it will not keep the whole winter. Last year's supply lasted all the way to June, and by then my garlic was growing strongly and we used garlic leaves (finely chopped) instead of cloves (I've been using galic leaves for few years now, early in the summer they are soft and very handy). Then there are scapes, and I pick them, some of them I freeze, but most we just chop and eat. I let few scapes to grow and take those tiny cloves and plant them in autunm. It takes two years for them to grow big bulbs/heads with several cloves, after one year they are only size of a single clove.
    We use "only" one head per week, roughly, but it is because that much garlic we had. This autunm I'm planning to plan more garlic, just as you are. It's always a compromise between how much I keep to eat and how much I want to plant.
    I initially started with three heads, roughly with 15 cloves, which gave me 12 or something new heads (actually I had six heads, but three of them were softneck variety which didn't succeed in my garden). After that I've increased the number of cloves I plant, this autunm I'm planning to plant roughly 80 cloves and around 50 to 100 tiny cloves from scapes.
    I think all garlic don't grow scapes at all? My garlic is a Russian hardneck variety, which thrives in our cold climate. It produces huge cloves and scapes, but it needs some care after harvesting to keep all winter.

    1. Hi Ulvmor,
      Thank you for that tip about planting the tiny cloves in the seed head of garlic scapes. I will remember that for next year. I use the scapes, too. They are so delicious. I look forward to those each spring. And I use some garlic greens when I can.

      It sounds like you and I are trying to do the same thing, expand our garlic growing a little at a time. Like you, I've found I've needed to increase the number I plant by just a little each year, or else there wouldn't be much for this year's cooking. Good luck to you!

  2. Interesting question. I have no idea how much garlic we use in a year. We're not heavy garlic users here, so I've never been tempted to grow it. We don't get or grow any foods with the purpose of having enough to last a year, but we do have some things they may last a year, like specialty flours which we store in the freezer.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Good thinking to keep your specialty flours in the freezer. I need to do that with some of the ones I've been experimenting with this year. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Interesting to contemplate! I think we use quite a bit of garlic, and I occasionally play with growing it. But with a limited space to grow in, I've just about decided that my garden space is too valuable for growing other crops to dedicate it to garlic (not judging others' choices, but for us and our own garden size). I purchase the large 48 oz containers of "fresh" pre-minced garlic at Sam's or Costco, currently $5.43 at Sam's, and we go through 2-3 of those per year. In addition, I buy one large container of granulated garlic ($7.98 for 26 oz) and that's about a year's supply for us, sometimes longer. So for about $23-$24 per year, we have a huge amount of garlic that I can use liberally in cooking, without tying up garden space during the peak of the growing season. The pre-minced kind also saves me the hassle of peeling and mincing. I mostly cook whole foods from scratch, and appreciate the occasional shortcuts such as this one. (Another summer shortcut is buying the large bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix for our cabbage usage when it's the wrong season for homegrown.)

    Trying to think about yearly purchases. To a certain extent, that would be pork and beef for us, and most of our chicken.Chicken is the most complicated of these to calculate, especially since this past year we also broke down the whole chickens into parts before freezing. The pork and beef are easier, in that we can get a half or whole. We usually do a whole hog (smaller heritage breed from a local farming friend) and a side of beef. Also rice and beans, since we normally buy these in large bulk bags for better pricing, and then I pre-soak and pressure can some of the beans into quarts for quick and easy usage later.

    You think of some great topics!

    1. Hi Cat,
      I understand not wanting to dedicate growing space to garlic when you can grow other produce in greater abundance (and get more value for the square foot) in the same space. I feel the same way about growing tomatoes for canning. The tomatoes I grow are for fresh eating. I buy cases of canned tomatoes for cooking with and making salsa. My canned price is very reasonable when shopping at Chefstore and buying the #10 cans of whole tomatoes. And I'm not picky about tomatoes when used in cooking, like I am for other produce items. Every year of gardening is a learning experience and I'm still refining what to grow and what to skip.

    2. Yes! We are much the same for tomatoes. I do use some tomatoes for a lacto-fermented salsa, but have given up on canning tomatoes for use in sauces, etc... . It just takes way too many and the space is better used for other things.

  4. Here's to your garlic harvest! I myself am excited to try growing garlic for the first time this fall. I did put in Egyptian Walking Onions (perennial onions) last year and they are doing great, coming back for me this year and producing more bulbils to plant (to produce more bubils and so on ) -- looking very much forward to having lots of perpetual onions and green onions for future harvests in the years to come :-D.

    1. Hi friend,
      Thank you for mentioning Egyptian walking onions. A perennial onion sounds like something that would work for one of my spaces. I'll have to look around for them next spring. Again, thanks!

  5. We buy the fresh preminced, bottled and the granulated types of garlic. Not sure how many per year. Like Cat, we buy these from Sam's and Costco (I do price comparisons and usually Sam's is cheaper). I use minced garlic often to pickle carrots and sweet onion for our daily toss salad. It's a healthy way to consume more garlic and apple cider vinegar, also pickling softens the carrot so it's not so woody in a salad. I'm too lazy to mince garlic since I'm making a small batch quite often, at least once a week.

    Have a nice day,

    1. Hi Laura,
      That is an excellent tip, to pickle the carrot slices before adding to salads. Thank you! I agree, raw carrot can be woody in a salad.
      I've seen the large jars of minced garlic at the restaurant supply. I'll have to check the price next time I'm there.

  6. Lynn fro. NC Outer BanksAugust 22, 2023 at 12:28 PM

    I planted garlic for the first time last fall. Several heads rotted in the ground and the (only) 2 heads I got when I dug them up were very.small. Maybe that was to be expected for the first year. I was disappointed and shelved replanting it due to such a small yield. Maybe I'll try it again. We use a moderate amount of garlic as I buy heads but also have powder.

    1. Hi Lynn,
      I'm sorry the garlic didn't work out very well for you. You may want to check out some videos or articles on growing garlic to get an idea of how to improve your harvest if you decide you want to try again. I watched videos on growing larger heads of garlic this summer. I'll be implementing some of the ideas with hopes for an improved harvest next year. Ditto on growing potatoes. Of course, some times, the weather just doesn't cooperate for us, and no matter what we do, plants do poorly in the garden. Bets of luck to you!

  7. My husband has played around with planting garlic, but wasn't serious about it, and it didn't produce much. My garlic usage varies quite a bit--less in summer, more the rest of the year. I would guesstimate maybe 1 bulb a week? No idea how accurate that is.

    1. Hi Kris,
      I am now wondering if garlic is finicky about climate, after both your and Lynn's comments.

      When I was buying garlic regularly, I would buy 1 head per week. When it ran out, I just made other dishes until I bought more. So back then I think I averaged 1 per week as well. The garlic heads I grow now are smaller than commercial ones, so I need more to get through a week.


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