Today, as the late evening sun warmed my back, I harvested my garlic and shallots. The leaves of the garlic had started to yellow and fade and the slugs and snails have had such a go at my shallots that barely any part of the green leaves remain, mostly just the bulbs. The shallots came up easily as they more or less sit on the surface of the soil with only their roots digging in. The garlic is a little more challenging - you need to follow the tall leaf stem down into the soil and locate and dig up the bulbs carefully as any bruising may cause problems with storage.
Evenings like this are why I put the effort into maintaining a vegetable patch. As I dug up the earth around the larger garlic bulbs, the faint garlic aroma mingled with the smell of the soil and I felt happy and excited. I'm always excited about harvests coming good. What went in to the soil as a single clove back in October last year has now grown, slowly slowly, with me vigilantly keeping watch, into one whole bulb. Now that is what I call a return.
I first started growing garlic about 5 years ago, starting with some bulbs brought from the Isle of Wight garlic farm. Since then I've been saving some of the bulbs from each yearly crop and replanting the cloves. Each year I try to save a little more (it's difficult - we love to cook and the temptation to use them all in the kitchen is strong) and each year my harvest grows a little bit more. I'm slightly limited by space and am probably now at my peak for how much garlic I can fit into my vegetable patch while still leaving space for other vegetables.
Shallots are possibly the easiest of any vegetables to grow. I always buy certified stock and plant in February by placing a single shallot on the surface of the soil, with the base just pushed in. You may need to net initially to protect from birds who sometimes end up disturbing the shallots before they have had a chance to root. As the shallot grows it multiplies and 1 shallot soon becomes 6 or 7 or 8 with the tops sprouting upwards into tall leaf spikes. Eventually (if the slugs and snails don't eat them all) the leaf spikes will form gorgeous allium type flowers which you can allow to go to seed, saving the seed for the following years crop. I've never grown shallots from seed but perhaps next year I should try.