Postharvest handling does not always receive the appropriate attention that it desires, and it is offen under emphasized in favor of the growing activities on some farms. We give our garlic careful harvesting, and proper transport, packaging and storage practices to maintain good produce quality.
Harvesting, Handling and Storage is what happens to the garlic plant between the harvest and the sell. It determines quality of the produce. Good and efficient postharvest handling helps ensure a competitive edge (both from the market perspective and by minimizing stress and strain to our body). We have experimented with our own systems to learn what works best for us, but we continue to refine our systems because there are always changing variables.
Delicious music garlic with roots cleaned, sorted by bulb size, field bundled (group of 3 bundles of 12 bulbs per bundle) and tied with twine on its way to ventilated, drying shed. Next harvest season we plan to take more photographs of the postharvest handling process in order to better illustrate the various steps.
The following table has our postharvest treatment for the garlic:
|Causes of Quality Loss||Care and Prevention||Tools and Systems||Record Keeping|
|Harvesting||Improper method of harvesting, Rough handling; and mechanical injuries||Harvest during good weather in the early morning, in the evening, or when it’s cloudy. Don’t hand-pull plants by pulling stems.||Use good quality tools. A broadfork or garden fork with long tines to loosen soil under and around bulbs.||Harvest only one garlic cultivar for each field run.|
|Grading||Rough handling; Over-exposure to sun\ wet weather||Sort into bundles by bulb size. Set aside any misshapen. Have same bulb count per bundles (12 bulbs per bundle) and tied with string or twine.||Remove by hand excess soil from roots. Excessive root moisture from damp soil may lead to rotting. Field sorting saves additional handling step in barn.||Tag bundles with cultivar name, harvest date, field location, bulb size and count. Keep a harvest log with pertinent field notes.|
|Field to Barn Transporting||Bruising, Improper stacking in wagon||Crisscross bundle layers with stem and leaves stacked on bulbs. Place cardboard or cloth sheets to cover top to shade. Move loaded wagon at slow speed. Keep good road conditions (fix ruts and bumps). Don’t over stack bundles.||Field wagon and Vermont Large Garden Cart Model 26. Pad field wagon and garden cart floor with straw or cardboard to cushion.|
|Storage||Improper curing; exposure to sun\ wet weather pests and mold||Hang bundles inside a well ventilated drying shed or barn. Allow adequate space between bundles. Keep curing garlic cool and out of weather and direct sunlight.||Use strong ropes, pulleys, ladders, tie supports and safety nets over walk ways.||Keep an inventory system. We store like cultivars together and keep inventory records showing amounts and dates removed for sale.|
|Trim, Bag and Weigh||Rough handling; Bruising and other mechanical injuries. Over-trimming roots and \ or stems.||Use sharp scissors to remove stem and trim roots. Use onion mesh bags to allow ventilation. Don’t over stack bags.||Hobart Model PR 309 Hanging Scales. Trimming table (two saw horses and half-sheet of plywood).||Tag bags with cultivar name, “for seed” or “for retail” and weight.|
|Retail||Over-exposure to sun\ weather\ vehicle exhaust during transport to market.Over-exposure to sun\ wet weather at market.||Use an enclosed trailer to transport produce. Use commercial grade tent at the Farmers Market.||King American Trailer 6′ Wide Series. E-Z Up Instant Shelter Canopy. Citizen Scales CTP-60 scale that carries “NTEP” certification.||Keep a sales record (cultivar name, date and amount sold). Offer a mailing sign-up list to customers for newsletters and emails. Encourage Customer feedback.|