Saturday, October 15, 2016
Garlic is rich in lore. It has been reputed to repel vampires, clear the blood, cure baldness, aid digestion over the ages. Garlic has been around for thousands of years. It originated in Asia, was cultivated in Egypt and has been a Mediterranean staple for centuries.
Today’s studies have shown is garlic antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral. And, it tastes great! Garlic is high in vitamin C, B6, calcium, manganese, selenium and more. For more nutritional info, garlic nutritional value
It is easy to grow and has little pest issues. All you do is throw them in the ground in the fall in October in our Zone 6 garden and by early summer, they are ready to harvest. Loosening the soil and adding compost prior to planting can boost the garlic bulb size. I have planted Elephant garlic straight into my mulched flower beds and had great luck. Their flower in spring is quite striking as well.
The clove puts out roots in the fall. Depending on how warm the winter is, there can be green shoots showing through the cold months. Garlic will be some of the first to start growing. The stems resemble onion greens. The garlic flower, or scape, has a cute little curl in it. It grows on hard neck varieties. They are great in salads. There is debate among garlic growers if removing the scape will also increase the bulb size. Either way, you can't lose by harvesting them.
You should choose the biggest cloves to plant. The bigger the clove, the bigger the harvest! Cloves as a root vegetable like loose soil, compost and steady fertilizer. Like carrots, radishes and beets, you can add sand to give a looser soil structure in your garlic bed. Simply tilling in compost should provide the soil texture that garlic loves. Compost and mulch well in the fall before cold weather sets in.
Plant the cloves root side down, 1-2” deep, and 4-6” apart. For planting by the cycle of the moon, garlic should be planted during the waning cycle of the moon. For our Zone 6 garden, this is September 9-23 and October 9-22. After the greens sprout to 6”, add compost or fertilizer as a side dressing. Garlic does not need a lot of nitrogen so compost is a good choice.
Garlic is ready to harvest then the tops begin to die off. Each leaf represents a layer of the white covering on your clove bulb. Dig up one or two when about half of the leaves have died (40% yellowed/brown leaves). If the bulb is still small, wait a couple more weeks before harvesting. If you harvest too late, the outer covering will have disintegrated and you will have just loose, naked cloves. Typically garlic harvest is mid-summer.
|Garlic ready to harvest|
Be careful when you go to harvest. If you cut the bulb, it will not keep and needs to eaten soon. The garlic should be left in dry shade for 2-3 weeks or brought inside and stored in a cool, dry location with good air circulation. They can be hung or placed in a perforated bin to dry and store.
Store bought garlic has been treated with chemicals to keep them from sprouting so they are not a great choice for growing your own. A great option is to buy cloves from your local farmers market. You know they grew well in your area. Just separate out the bulb(s) into individual cloves and plant the biggest ones. You can eat or preserve the smaller cloves.
Garlic can be mild or hot. Elephant garlic is very mild and not really true garlic at all. It is a type of leek. It has a great garlic flavor and produces huge bulbs. The ones I grew this year are from the previous year’s harvest. I always keep the biggest cloves to replant in the fall.
|Elephant garlic flower|
You can tell the difference in the two by looking at the flowers. Leeks and soft neck garlic have a onion type flower while garlic has a curly scape flower.
|Hardneck garlic scapes|
There is soft and hard necked garlic. For storing, soft neck garlic is the ticket. It is also the strongest flavored. Hard necked is milder, easier to peel, more cold hardy and the first to mature.
Everyone knows of garlic in sauces and on cheese bread. A few years ago, we tried roasted garlic. It dramatically mellows the flavor. I just put a few heads in a small baking dish, add chicken stock to just about level to the cut heads, and let bake covered at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until soft. It is a great spread on French bread!
If your garlic dries up over the winter, I grind it into garlic powder. If you have great tasting garlic that doesn’t store well or you have a bountiful crop, another preservation option is pickled garlic. Just peel (Quick tip-”peeling” garlic
) and cover your fresh garlic cloves in organic apple cider vinegar. You can add a couple of hot peppers if you want to add some extra zing!