Learning how to braid garlic is not only a practice in style, but also an important tool to ensure your harvest stores well.
A garlic braid allows each bulb to reap the benefits of air circulation, which is important because moisture = bad news. There’s also a convenience factor as bulbs are easily snipped off leaving the rest of the braid intact.
When you’ve harvested your garlic and given it a few days to dry out (not too much!) you’re ready to get braiding. (You can eat garlic right away, but this is an option for storing the likely bountiful amount of bulbs.)
How to Make a Garlic Braid
- Start with 10 bulbs*, making 3 groups of 3. Group similarly-sized bulbs together from largest to smallest.
- The 10th bulb will be the final one to top the others before you braid the stalks. It should be smaller.
(*If you have more than 10 bulbs, you can make the braid bigger by adding multiples of 3 after the first 10.)
Prepare the Bulbs
Trim the roots away.
Give each bulb a gentle scrub with a soft bristled brush to remove the loose dirt.
Delicately strip the stalks, pulling away only the layers that naturally pull off without any force.
Arrange your groups of 3 from largest to smallest.
Put your braiding (or Penguins) hat on.
When all the bulbs are cleaned and sorted, you’re ready to go.
Braid the Bulbs
Start with your first group of 3, which will be the largest bulbs.
At this point your first 3 bulbs are locked and ready to be braided upon. Grab your next group of 3.
At this point you move the third bulb from the second set to the right side, then repeat the pattern: New bulb to center, then left, then right.
Remember: When you add a new bulb to the braid, those stalks always become part of the center group of stalks.
The 10th bulb (or whatever # is your last bulb), gets added like it’s the center bulb kicking off a new set, then you begin to braid the stalks like you would braid hair. That’s it!
Watch the video to see the steps in action…
If it seems complicated, I promise that once you get started it’s quite intuitive. And relaxing!
Always use a delicate touch when braiding. The garlic is still fresh and tender.
Hang the Braids
Cool and dry are the name of the game, so you want to hang the braids away from direct sunlight and safe from potential wetness or moisture.
Softneck vs. Hardneck: Not every kind of garlic can be braided.
As the names imply, one type of garlic is soft (braid-able) and one is hard (not braid-able). The “neck” is the stalks, and as you saw above the soft ones are nice and pliable.
In addition to braiding abilities, there are some more notable differences between softneck and hardneck:
- Only hardneck varieties produce garlic scapes
- Hardneck bulbs and cloves are usually larger than softneck ones
- The flavor of hardneck varieties is stronger and more complex than softneck
- Softneck bulbs mature more quickly and store better than hardneck
- Most garlic found in grocery stores is softneck
Here’s our group of hardneck garlic varieties, hanging nice and stiffly without braids in their future.
Whether softneck or hardneck, braided or hung, properly dried and stored garlic can last for months and months – keeping vampires away indefinitely.