Ways to Store Your Garlic Harvest

Garlic is a wonderful crop for those of us looking to stock up on our homegrown produce and to spice up our menu without relying on expensive (and none-too-fresh) packaged spices. With the proper care, garlic can be stored for up to a year. Here are some of my favorite ways for storing my garlic harvest.

Hardneck Garlic: use it up first or dehydrate for long term storage

Dehydrate your garlic

Hardneck garlic has a much shorter storage life than its softneck cousins. The cloves are larger and more flavorful than most softneck varieties, making hardneck garlic the perfect candidate for dehydration. What, you don’t think that hand slicing hundreds of cloves to fill your dehydrator is the best idea for a fun afternoon? I have a partial solution for the chore: I picked up this handy miniature mandolin/Garlic Slicer made specifically for slicing garlic. I LOVE it. It works really well and creates perfectly even slices of garlic for efficient and safe dehydration – it’s always best to slice vegetables evenly so that all pieces get fully dried. We filled my Excalibur in a few hours then set it to dehydrate at 115 degrees for around 12 hours. Test a slice to be sure they’re dried brittle and add more time if not. I store my garlic in glass jars and grind for powder in smaller batches closer to use: garlic powder has the tendency to clump.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hardneck garlic also makes killer roasted garlic. Just wrap each bulb in foil with a bit of olive oil and toss them in the oven when you bake your next meal. Spread on bread, meat, or stir into sauces. However you enjoy your garlic: use the hardneck first and then move onto your softneck varieties.

Softneck garlic: Those soft necks sure braid up nicely!

Softneck garlic braided and stored in my pantry

Learn how to braid garlicThe obvious way for storing softneck garlic is to braid it! All your garlic should be cured for about a month somewhere well ventilated and shady before long term storage. Set aside all the biggest bulbs to plant this fall, but store the rest of the softneck varieties in beautiful braids. Store the braids out of direct light for best storage. Visit this post for complete, illustrated instructions!

When properly cured and stored some varieties of garlic can last in your pantry for over a year. If you notice any green shoots – use those bulbs up asap. Also watch for pithy bulbs or any mold and remove those from the others quickly. Garlic needs ventilation and a dark, cool place to store best. Never store your garlic in plastic and avoid storing near onions or potatoes.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Birdsong Farm, Kitchen Tools, Preserved Food

Tuna/Zucchini Patties

For those of us fortunate enough to live within an hour or two of the Oregon coast, summertime means Albacore tuna season! For the folks willing to put in the time, 2 or 3 whole tuna can fill our pantries with the most delicious canned tuna anyone could ask for. Earlier this summer i purchased 2 whole tuna, filleted them myself and put up 23 half pints of tuna, seasoned with assorted herbs and spices from my gardens and froze several more fillets for enjoying fresh. It wasn’t ‘difficult’ per say, but it certainly took some time.

Time spent then is time saved now.

Tuna/Zucchini Patties - Recipe

September is also the time of year (in Kings Valley, OR at least) that the garden is finally producing like gang busters. Zucchini? Yes, please!   This recipe pairs both ingredients in tandem. The tuna really shines, the zucchini helps the tuna go further and adds some vegetable to the dish, and the lard…… that’s another whole food preservation topic – it’s delicious and really is the best frying oil EVER. Without further ado: the recipe.

Tuna/Zucchini patties (Serves 2-3)

  • 1 jar (1/2 pint) home canned tuna (I have been using my ‘dill/garlic’ tuna for this recipe)
  • 1 small to medium zucchini, shredded
  • Panko
  • optional: 1/2 cup finely diced sweet onion
  • 1 duck egg (2-2 chicken eggs)
  • Fine cornmeal
  • Lard
  • optional herbs: dill/garlic/lemon basil/hot chillies

First off, drain your zucchini: shred zucchini into a collander or pasta strainer. Sprinkle with salt and let sit over sink 5-10 minutes then firmly squeeze down to press out as much liquid as possible. In large bowl combine tuna, zucchini and enough panko to soak up any remaining zucc liquid. I fill the tuna jar with panko and use that amount plus about 1/4 to 1/2 jar additional. Stir in eggs and optional onion. You want the mixture to not be too crumbly and to hold together as a patty without being overly wet or dry: add more egg if dry, more panko if wet.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Heat your pan to medium with a generous dollup of lard. What, you don’t render your own lard? Shame on you. You could also use reserved bacon grease, duck lard, coconut oil or butter. Form a palm sized ball and press into a patty shape. Roll this patty into seasoned cornmeal (get the extra fine cornmeal that’s finer than normal cornmeal but not as floury as masa) and put one patty at a time into the fat and cook until browned. I rotate my patties at least once so that all sides spend some time on that hotter center of the pan (my stove ain’t so great). Once brown, flip. This does take a bit of time – you don’t want a burnt exterior and gooey center.

Tuna/Zucchini Patties - Recipe

Tip: i like to prepare the cakes and put them onto a cookie sheet to finish in the oven. Since i’m also cooking oven fries, i just put the cakes into the oven for about 5 minutes to re-heat the first ones and ensure a fully cooked center.

Serve with tartar sauce, ranch, ketchup, etc. We love a mix of 2 parts yogurt, 1 part mayo, minced garlic and pinch of chives.

Tuna/Zucchini Patties - Recipe

Have you ever canned tuna? What are your favorite ways of serving it?


Leave a Comment

Filed under Cast Iron, Cooking, Dinner

Duck and Mushroom Gravy

When I am vending the farmer’s market, offering my Muscovy duck and rabbit meat for sale to local customers, I often spend half of my time explaining my favorite recipes and how best to prepare my meats. Both rabbit and duck are ‘unusual’ and many customers have never cooked them before. I often refer to Hank Shaw’s book, “Duck, Duck, Goose”. I taut ‘pan seared breast’ as the best recipe ever for featuring my Muscovies in your kitchen, and pan seared breasts ARE the most delicious thing ever. But honestly, the best recipe for a ‘duck virgin’ isn’t necessarily the best recipe, it’s the EASIEST recipe that brings out the most flavor with a high success rate. THIS is my new most recommended recipe. *Apologies for the terrible ipad photos. I just wanted to get to EATING not photographing.

Muscovy Duck and Mushroom gravy

I am not going to be overly specific with this ‘recipe’. I want you to feel free to put what you want into this dish, and to cut the meat in a way familiar to you. The basic ingredients needed are good stock, duck meat, mushrooms. You could use locally foraged wild mushrooms. You could pick up some oysters from the farmer’s market. You could use skinless breasts or thighs or skin on breasts. Spice it up, add more veggies: you get it, it’s versatile. Read on to see how I prepared this dish then try it your way.

Enter: fresh muscovy drake, about 5 pounds. First I breasted the bird and put aside the remaining carcass (the thighs will become confit and the carcass will become rich stock). I risked flabby skin chunks and sliced the breasts about 1/4 to 1/2 inch think with skin on. The fat under the skin rendered nicely and i didn’t notice anything gross about the skin, but you could remove it first. The fat will add quite a bit of flavor, though so leave it on and see what you think.

After slicing, I tossed my meat into a medium hot cast iron pan with some salt and pepper. Once the fat began to render out, i added some chopped garlic and onion with salt. Stir, stir, stir until the meat is mostly cooked and there are even some crispy bits on the skin. Next i added some roughly chopped oyster mushrooms from the vendor next to me at market. You may choose to put a lid on to steam the mushrooms more while they cook, or not. I also threw in some mildly hot peppers. Continue stirring and cooking until the mushrooms are softening, sprinkle a tablespoon or two of flour around the pan then add most of a quart of stock.

*Hint: Want an even EASIER way to cook this recipe?? To achieve a ‘shredded’ style meat that is super tender, place the whole duck in your crock pot and cook on high for 5-6 hours with a splash of stock and your favorite herbs. Add the mushrooms halfway through cooking time. Remove the bones from the meat, add a bit more stock if necessary and your favorite thickener: voila!

Stock: i make and can my own. I prepare my stock with mostly duck and chicken bones – either from raw or roasted carcasses. I cook my stock down thick enough that the gelatin sets up when refrigerated. This is some seriously flavorful, rich, nutritious stuff. You COULD of course use store bought stock but do me a favor: save the carcass from tonight’s dinner and make your own homemade stock for next time. You can freeze it if you don’t know how to pressure can.

Bring this gravy to a boil then turn down and simmer until it’s getting good and thick. I added a bit of cornstarch at the end to thicken it up a smidgeon more. Served over homegrown mashed potatoes with a side of kale almost-chips and we both about swooned into a food coma. This much meat should have served 3 or 4 but we ate almost all of it. I’m not sorry: it was delicious!

Birdsong Farm Oregon: Raising Muscovy Ducks

So, the next time i have a ‘duck virgin’ at market, i will direct them to this recipe. Let me know how it turns out for you!




Filed under Birdsong Farm, Cast Iron, Cooking, Duck

How To Braid Garlic (Illustrated Step by Step)

Learn how to make beautiful garlic braidsYou carefully planted your garlic last fall. You cared for it all spring: watching its water, fertilizing a few times, weeding the patch well. Sometime around July you harvested a bundle of gorgeous bulbs and dutifully hung or laid them somewhere to cure before long term storage… Wait, you did do all this stuff, right??? – No? It’s time to revisit some of my other garlic growing posts and to check out the Fall 2016 issue of Self Reliance Magazine for my complete guide to growing garlic for the home gardener!

Self Reliance Magazine - Fall 016

Anyhoo – you’ve got yourself some soft neck garlic that has cured 3-5 weeks. (Curing is important: Don’t trim the roots before they’re cured: the roots help to facilitate the drying process. Any other cleaning at harvest time is also not recommended as the bulbs are very tender at that time. Garlic should be hung in a cool/dark place with plenty of ventilation.) The roots are good and shriveled/dry an the paper wrappers around the bulbs are nice and papery. It’s time to braid your garlic!  Braiding itself require a bit of practice and for me, requires chanting an out-loud mantra, but also requires a bit of prep. This post will most likely be a bit long but hopefully by the end you will have a VERY good idea on how to braid your own garlic. You can click on the images to see larger versions. Let’s get started!

Choosing your garlic: Softneck garlic store longer than their hardneck cousins and have softer necks (duh) making them easier to braid. My favorite braiding garlic that i grow is Nootka Rose – they clean up beautifully and the stems are very pliable. Nootka is a Silverskin garlic which occasionally sends up harneck like scapes – trim those bulbs off your bundle and store separately in a cloth bag or ceramic crock as they will be too difficult to braid.

Sort, Set aside, Clean: Before i begin braiding, i first sort through my garlic to choose the largest bulbs to keep for fall planting. For my 10×30 foot patch i hold back around 30 big bulbs of softneck and 15-20 or so of hardneck. If this isn’t enough, i can always pilfer my braids. You can write right on the bulb with a sharpy to label your variety.


To clean your garlic, use a scissors to trim the roots off tight to the bulb. Use a soft brush to brush out all the dirt. Carefully break off the outer layer or two of wrappers (not too much or the bulb will be exposed and won’t store as long!) to remove the dryer/stiffer outer stem. This will result in a very clean looking bulb of garlic and more workable stem.

Carefully remove the outer 1-2 wrappers, leaving plenty on the bulb for long storage

Carefully remove the outer 1-2 wrappers, leaving plenty on the bulb for long storage

I like to braid 13, 16 or 19 bulbs per braid.  Prepare a wet towel and lay 4 of the largest bulbs on this towel after you’ve cleaned them up, wrapping the stems close to the bulb. Let soak  while you clean the remaining bulbs. Alternatively, you can dampen all the greens of all the garlic for a really clean looking braid. I’m not entering anything in the fair so i’m more concerned about facilitating the starting knot than making a really clean braid.

HOW TO BRAID GARLIC: Soaking the Stems makes braiding easier/cleaner

Once all the bulbs are cleaned and soaked to your satisfaction, arrange bulbs in the order of size. You will begin braiding the largest 4 and work your way up/ small.


Braiding your garlic: Along with your garlic you will need a length of twine and your scissors. To begin your braid you must start with the “Starting Knot.” Here is a visual illustration, followed by directions:

HOW TO BRAID GARLIC: THE STARTING KNOT1. Lay your bulbs down “right, left, center” or “1, 2, 3”

2. Take the stem of bulb one and wrap it over 2,3/ left,center; under itself; then over the 2,3 stems again.

3. Cinch up the bulbs 2 and 3 close to this knot for a nice, tight base for your braid

Once you have this knot, finish it by adding a 4th bulb in the center. Always add every new bulb so that their stem is being added to the existing center stem(s). Add this first bulb to the center. After this always add new bulbs in the pattern: right, left, center, as you did with the starting knot.

How to Braid Garlic - illustrated

Hopefully you are familiar with how to braid. While you are adding the garlic bulbs in the “right, left, center” pattern, you are also braiding the stems as you would anything. The lowest (farthest back) stem(s) is always the stem(s) that you braid over your new center stem. It can be confusing, but when braiding the stems you are alternating left, then right, then left, always braiding the outer/furthest back stem over the center stem while your bulb addition pattern is ‘right, left, center’. I told you it takes some practice and chanting!

How to braid garlic - illustrated

Finishing the braid: Keep adding your bulbs and braiding your stems, finishing on a center bulb. From this point continue braiding the stems for a few inches. With your length of twine, tie a tight knot to tie the end of this braid. Fold the remaining stem ends over backwards (Make the fold at least an inch above your first knot) and tie again behind your braid. Double knot this tie then create a simple knot with the end of the string to create a loop for hanging. Cut off the string and stem ends and VOILA!


Depending on the variety of garlic you grew and how well you cured it, these braids could last up to a year if hung in a dark, cool room. To remove a bulb, simply twist it a few times to pop it off the braid. Use the bulbs at the top first.

My garlic harvest on display

Garlic braids are a wonderful way to store a delicious crop, make special gifts and are “pretty enough to eat.” I hope you’ll try it for yourself!

Grow Garlic with Self Reliance Magazine contributors, Miranda and Pocket from Birsong Farm

Read lots more about how to grow garlic in the fall issue of Self Reliance Magazine and search this blog for more posts. You can find even more resources at some of my favorite websites and blogs from my resources page. Happy braiding!




1 Comment

Filed under Birdsong Farm, Gardening, Handmade Holidays, Preserved Food