My Garlic Shortage

Okay, it’s official: I will definitely run out of garlic before the next harvest of that crop in our area (mid-July). I have five heads left. It is no longer available at the farmers markets.

It wouldn’t have helped me to stockpile more from last year because what I have is getting dried-out and chewy and sprouting in the middle. This is a potential culinary crisis for me because a lot of my cooking includes garlic (hey, I’m half Greek). I considered granting myself a retroactive garlic exemption for The 250, but decided that would be against the spirit of the experiment.

Last Saturday the weather was almost spring-like, so I headed to Prospect Park knowing I would find plenty of field garlic (Allium vineale). I’ve had bronchitis for the past week though, so my stamina for foraging wasn’t good. I dug up one good-sized clump and called it a day.

The thing about field garlic is that it is an ephemeral that dies back to the ground when temps warm up. If I want it to replace the domestic garlic that is running out, I need to stock up by mid-May. The other thing about field garlic is that it is a lot more work than domestic garlic. It doesn’t form heads of large cloves. Instead, there are tiny cloves about the size of your little fingernail scattered throughout a tangled mass of roots.

field garlic

First, I washed all the dirt and pebbles out of the mass of roots. I saved the tender white parts of the stems along with the cloves because they are also good (think scallions).

Then I ran out of steam and dumped the semi-cleaned mass in a plastic container in the refrigerator until I could get back to them the next day. This afternoon, I peeled off the tan papery husks that were on some of the tiny cloves.

cleaned field garlic

After that I minced and froze them. The total yield was about what you’d get from two medium-sized heads of domestic garlic. Not bad for one clump of field garlic, but a lot of work and clearly not enough to get me through until July. I’ll be digging up more field garlic between now and when it goes dormant in late spring.

Given the option, I’d be using domestic garlic, which has been bred for large cloves and easy harvesting. But I like the fact that I knew a foraging alternative. And hey, it got me out into the park on a nice day and it was free.

Not sure what this is about? Read Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet and The Rules


6 responses to “My Garlic Shortage”

  1. acmeplant says:

    When I get out to PA on Thursday I’ll check and see what I’ve got. I may be able to spare a head or two, and I can’t think of a more deserving recipient.

  2. ledameredith says:

    I’ll take you up on that it it’s not going to leave you short!

  3. Miriam says:

    I’d go helpless without store-bought garlic, myself, because where I live no field garlic grows. How lovely field garlic is. I used to separate the white flowers and sprinkle them over a salad: pretty and tasty. The bulbs I dried last spring are just as you describe: withered and sprouting. The sprouts are good diced and added to a dish for extra flavor, but that’s just a last-minute attempt to salvage my investment. I feel like I’m cheating when I buy imported bulbs at the supermarket at this time of year. Having come under the influence of this blog, I’ve decided to take several kilos of the fresh, green garlic, when it comes to the market in a few weeks, and freeze it against next winter.

    I’m sorry you haven’t been well, Leda – but eat some of that field garlic fresh, and the bronchitis will clear up quicker.


  4. ledameredith says:

    That’s an excellent idea! I will freeze a bunch of the fresh garlic when it appears on the market again, too.

  5. kmp says:

    Hi Leda,

    A couple of weeks ago I checked out the Holbrook Farm market ( ) – it’s open year-round (over the winter it’s on the honor system – you just leave cash for what you buy in a big jar) and they still had some organic garlic left from last season. I bought a few heads – granted it is now a bit dry, but I guess I should have peeled the cloves and frozen them. Anyway, if you have a way to get to Bethel, CT, I’m sure they still have some left. Something to try if your field garlic sources dry up!


  6. valereee says:

    Leda, green garlic are at the farmers’ market now and make a reasonable substitute for garlic. Garlic scapes will be here soon, and while they’re not a perfect substitute they work well in a lot of dishes.

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