• Jere Folgert

"Popping" or "Cracking" a Garlic Clove

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

Hardneck Garlic ‘Popping’ 101

GroEat Farm

Popping a Hardneck Garlic Bulb

Seed Garlic bulbs are taken apart into separate cloves before eating and just before planting. This task is a good group activity, though you can easily do it by yourself.

There are so many ways to separate cloves from a garlic bulb. This task is known as cracking, popping, or breaking a bulb. Some folks Twist off the outer skins and pull the bulb apart, trying not to break the basal plate of the cloves. This can be done by grabbing the hardneck stem and moving that stem back and forth, left and right (imagine you are shifting a 1967 Dodge Dart with a manual transmission) . This will slowly dislodge the hardneck stem from the inner cloves. Other folks use a broad knife to gently penetrate the empty space between cloves, cutting through the garlic bulb paper skins to expose the cloves.

Instead, try this method of separating hardneck garlic cloves. This technique is called: "Popping" a Garlic Bulb (and you'll even get the sound effect: "Pop" ). Popping a garlic head releases frustration and tension too! Let's get started. Grab the head of garlic firmly in the palm of your hand, with the stiff or hard neck stem facing downward, perpendicular to the hard surface. With adequate force, SLAM that bulb downward onto the hard surface. The hard neck or stem of the garlic will hit the surface first, and with luck, the stem will dislodge from the garlic bulb, freeing the individual cloves.

Hardneck garlic typically produce a single circle of cloves around the central "hardneck" woody stalk. The cloves are buttoned onto this stalk. In order to gain access to the individual cloves, we need to separate the cloves from this woody stalk. Separating the individual cloves from the hardneck garlic bulb is not always an easy task.

What happens underground as a garlic clove developes? How do these bulbs form?In the fall, we plant individual hardneck garlic cloves into the soil. The cloves overwinter and go through vernalization, a period of cold winter temperatures to encourage the seed to divide and grow into separate cloves that form the head of garlic. Vernalization is cold treatment, similar to that of blooming bulbs such as tulips. In the spring, Garlic is triggered to bulb when day length increases to about 14 hours.

After a clove is planted, very small vegetative buds emerge on the surface of the true stem at the base of the inner leaves. Specialized leaves swell into cloves around each fertile bud in mid-spring in order to nourish and protect the bud through its period of rest and during its early growth. At the base of this leaf, tiny cloves begin to develop and in spring, and they continue to grow or swell around the stalk. Each clove has a bud that forms at least a leaf, some leaves form cloves. Cloves are actually swollen leaves. Each garlic bulb contains cloves covered with a thin papery skin. Each clove is made of two modified mature leaves around an axis with a vegetative growing point. The outer leaf is a dry sheath, while the base of the inner leaf is thickened, making up the bulk of the clove.

Conclusion: Popping or Splitting a Garlic Head is easy. It only works with Hardneck Garlic. The Length of the Stem Should Be About Two Inches. We begin by grasping the hardneck garlic in the palm of our hand with the hardneck stem facing downward, perpendicular to the surface. With adequate force, hit the stem portion of the garlic on a hard surface; It may take a few tries, though this task should dislodge the stem from the bulb resulting in a 'pop'. Pull the hardneck stem from the bulb. After close inspection, you can see how the base of the garlic stem is almost buttoned on to the individual cloves.

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Jere Folgert is the owner of GroEat Garlic Farm in Bozeman, Montana. GroEat Farm is a small, sustainable family farm located in the beautiful Hyalite Foothills, in the shadows of the Gallatin Mountain Range.  The hardneck varieties that they grow on their farm flourish, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range.

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