I find having to peel tiny garlic bulbs intensely frustrating and because our Midlands climate is not idea growing conditions for garlic, mine have a tendency to be on the small side. Therefore am always on the look out for a garlic bulb that produces large cloves despite our sometimes gloomy English climate.
Therefore I was incredibly excited to see Printanor, the main commercial crop of New Zealand which has a similar climate to our own. It is a French bred soft neck variety and the photograph in the catalogue suggested that the bulbs would be nearly palm sized. Unfortunately after growing for a season in one of the warmest English summers I can remember, I can only imagine that it might have been the palm of a very petite person.
However, to be fair to the garlic, most cloves are a good size, not too fiddly to peel. The bulbs are average in size, they just don’t live quite up to the almost elephant sized garlic expectation.
Printanor can be sown in either the autumn or early spring and is a soft neck variety.
Garlic comes in a couple of different types, hard neck and soft neck. The difference is the stem that comes up from the bulb. In hard neck the stem is hard, soft neck…soft.
Hard neck bulbs in general are slower growing, have fewer but bigger bulbs and do not store quite as well as soft neck.
Soft neck varieties mature faster so can be better in cooler climates, have more but smaller bulbs and store for longer than hard necks. Their softer stem means they can also be plaited in to the traditional garlic plaits seen in traditional food markets.
On top of this you also get varieties of garlic that are best sown in autumn or others which can be sown in spring. Do buy garlic bulbs from a reputable supplier to reduce the risk of bringing onion rot on to your site.
Garlic likes a sunny, well-drained site. Before planting dig in some well-rotted organic matter. Break the bulbs in to individual cloves, discarding any that are damaged or small. Plant the individual cloves pointed side up, 2.5cm deep and 15cm apart, leaving 30 cm between rows.
Water only during dry spells in spring and early summer and not at all once the leaves start to turn yellow. Keep weed free by mulching or weeding by hand to prevent damage to shallow roots.
Harvest starts in June/July. The leaves will be starting to brown. Harvest during a dry period by gently loosening the roots with a fork before lifting the garlic. Don’t pull hard or you may leave the bulb in the ground.
Dust the earth off the roots and trim them before drying. The most successful method of drying in the UK is to tie several bulbs together with string and suspend in a cool dark place such as a shed or garage. After several weeks you can either trim the stems or plait and continue to store in a cool dark place.
Garlic can suffer from two main problems which is rust which will appear most in warm damp conditions. It makes the plants look a little unsightly and will stunt growth a little but will not affect the bulbs or storage. There are no current rust resistant varieties. The others are birds which may pull out cloves when they are first planted. Give them a check every couple of days and replant.
In the kitchen:
Printanor is a nice tasting garlic, not too fiery and can be used both cooked or in moderation raw.
Yield and plant health:
Plants were healthy, although they did succumb to rust. Cloves were well formed and damage/disease free. 100% success rate on planted cloves forming a bulb from an autumn sowing and a very wet cold winter down to minus 8.
I will probably give it another go at some point, especially given the very cold spring that we had….but the search for an extra large true garlic continues.